The Transformational Pause

I was having a tough day, which happens on this roller coaster ride of building something not yet imagined. And I tried something different to help pull me out of it – as opposed to allowing myself go down a vortex of old emotions and patterns. I pulled out the “bonus point” essays that students wrote about my guest lecture this fall at the University at Buffalo, to remind me of my purpose.

You know what one of the hardest hitting concepts was?

PAUSE BEFORE RESPONDING

That’s right, while many admitted it was common sense, it was a like a lightbulb went off when they were reminded about this tool about how to build strong relationships, even when triggered. This picture shows my students taking a moment to pause and assess what was going on internally for them. I was nervous to even do this exercise in class, but I realized that we are often not encouraged to pause and take a moment for reflection. We are more likely to be asked to respond and to do so immediately. Many workplaces have a bias for extroverted behaviors like this – where we process externally. Maybe it was in this doing that helped students see the power of the pause – even in the middle of class.

Then I got to thinking, how many people in the working world forget about this simple act, which can transform a conversation and even a relationship. With so much open conflict these days, we are inundated with bad examples of how to manage it.

When you’re triggered, upset, confused, unsure or even scared, it’s ok to take the time you need. It’s ok to take a deep breath and pause before responding. And while we may fear that the other person may be wondering what the heck is going on – the reality is that they will hardly know that you took 20 seconds to yourself to center and ground.

We can even go further with this pause if we need to. We can excuse ourselves to the restroom if we want to buy more time to calm down. We can even request to pick up the topic later, to provide time for reflection. Our boundary on responding is our right. Our pause to process is also our right.

So before office gossip turns into drama, before the tension turns into animosity, before the disagreement turns into hostility – remember this tool. Pause, take a breath and give yourself time to find the clarity in WHO you want to be when you respond. Then you can feel good about the what, when you wake up in the morning.

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