In his discusssion of a psychology of judgmentalism (as contrasted with the capacity to make moral judgments), Terry Cooper compares and contrasts responding and reacting. He sees it as critical that people learn how to respond to one another rather than react to one another. He sees reactance as giving control to others, while the capacity to respond is coming from a person’s “centeredness in grace” (p. 67). (These various distinctions come from Table 4.1 on page 69.)
He says reacting comes from being self-centered, while responding is from a more centered self. Reacting focuses on controlling others and combines thoughts and emotions and is often impusive, coming from both external triggers and internal compulsion. In contrast, responding distinguishes between thoughts and feelings (like differentiation of self?) and is an internal decision from conviction and an awareness of the context surrounding one’s behavior (rather than confusing a person with their behavior).
Cooper encourages the reader to examine themselves to see when they respond and when the react to others. He acknowledges that we may find ourselves reacting more than we would like to admit.