Reactive VS Responsive Communication

Reactive VS Responsive Communication by Athena Laz

 Reactive VS Responsive Communication

(This Q&A was originally featured in my #AskAthena Column In Cosmopolitan Magazine)

Q: Hi Athena,

I’ve been working at a great company for the past 5 years & have really loved most of my work colleagues but in September I was assigned a new manager & I am really struggling to work with her. She unnecessarily yells and generally just brings the whole office down. I’ve also noticed that I end up reacting to her… I’ll be driving home fuming at what happened during the day. What can I do? -Emma

A: Hi Emma,

It sounds like an incredibly frustrating  situation to be in.

Your manager sounds like a bit of a bully and in order to nip this in the bud you will need to maintain clear, professional boundaries with her.

If you come from a reactive space it will just add more drama and volatility in your office space.

So take a step back & maintain your professionalism because you cannot & will not ever be able to control her behavior.

Your power always lies in how you handle yourself.  Athena Laz's Tweet That

How to deal with a bitchy boss and learn the art of reactive vs responsive communication by Athena Laz


 6 steps to dealing with a diffiuclt boss

*Vent your frustration out with someone you trust in a safe space. This should be an impartial person who does not work with you. Get out all the (not so nice) things that you want to say about your manager. Don’t hold back – say it all.

*Then work on what you need to say to her.

*Practice saying what you need to say to this impartial person first, so that when you actually confront her you have an idea of where you are going & what you want to gain out of the conversation.

*Set up a meeting to confront your manger.

*During the meeting, talk about your point of view and avoid placing blame onto her or anyone else. For example: It feels incredibly stressful in the office when confrontation results in screaming, can we try and approach this in a different way?

*If you start to feel pushed and angry by what she is saying practice responsive communication (as opposed to reactive communication).  Responsive communication is around mirroring and acknowledging what the other person is saying and then responding with an “I” based statement.

How to deal with a bitchy boss and learn the art of reactive vs responsive communication by Athena Laz

 For example:

Manager: It’s totally unacceptable that X is late… So disappointing, I should just do it myself because I can’t rely on you for anything. (Yelling and shouting ensues).

Reactive Communication:  Actually client A is late in sending me the documents, if you were a better manager you would know that. So this is not my fault. (Yelling and shouting back).


Responsive Communication: I can hear that you are frustrated and disappointed that X is late but it’s late for a valid reason. I am waiting on client A to send me the information. It also feels frustrating to me because this adds unnecessary pressure onto me even though I’ve tried to get hold of them on multiple occasions. I tried to speak to you about this the other day but I noticed that you were really busy and I didn’t want to unnecessarily burden you.

 If all of this fails, you may need HR to step in and mediate the process.

That said, I hope your see results with your manager.

Remember that empathy can go a long way in understanding another person’s point of view.

As can noting what you want to feel


claiming your own power back.

( You can watch my video interview with thought leaders, Alexi Panos & Preston Smiles, on this topic right here).

All the best,

Athena Laz is the founder of, where she uses her skill as a licensed psychologist, self-help author & columnist to help others find their inner power.

P.S. Have a question? E-mail or tweet me.

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1 Comment
  1. Amy 4 years ago

    Yes , yes, yes ! Thanks Athena Xx

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