The Power of the Pause

sunriseI’ve been thinking a lot lately about pausing. About creating space or a moment to stop whatever I’m doing and think, or listen, or feel.

Pausing is something I don’t do well. But how many of us do? Modern life in general is nothing but anti-pause – we feel constant pressure to do-do-do and then broadcast it to the world.

Like by writing a blog.

But you know all that. What can I tell you about the benefits of pausing that you haven’t heard before?

Just Google the phrase, “power of the pause,” and you’ll get interesting results. Some pages are about books on pausing. One book appears to offer ways to tap into your spirituality and find your inner truth.

Another is about how to pause regularly to lead a successful life, by doing simple things like listening more and breaking bad habits.

One of the search results was a commencement speech by Maria Shriver, in which she talked about the many ways that pausing can help new graduates, to guard against plunging into a harried, distracted, ill-considered life.

It’s a good speech, actually, you should just read it yourself.

Another results page – a blog by a speech coach – talks about the power of the pause to give a more effective presentation. It quotes the endlessly quotable Mark Twain, who said:

The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.

Think about that.

…a little longer.

(I know, pausing is not so easy in writing.)

All that is fine, but I should fess up about where I’m coming from with this whole pause business.

candleOriginally, I came up with the idea – to blog about the power of the pause – because I needed some answers about a conflict between loved ones. I was planning to offer tips to you, Dear Reader, on how to use the power of the pause to elicit more information from someone under difficult circumstances.

It’s simple advice, really – calmly ask a question, listen carefully to the response, and then maintain silence for a moment or two.

By waiting, you create that awkward gap – that “pregnant pause” – that most of us are uncomfortable with.

Sometimes, the other person will fill the vacuum of silence with more talk. Which may or may not tell you what you want but is almost always revealing.

But that’s not really what I want to write about, because the conflict I’m grappling with isn’t even resolved.

Because people are still angry, and the gulf between them remains.

So let’s focus on the importance of pausing in the midst of anger, shall we? Whatever the cause of your anger, just stop and think.

Don’t automatically act on impulse. Feel your feelings, but delay taking action, consider what’s really behind them.

Yes, there’s a little meta self-talk going on here, because this unresolved conflict is making me angry!

Desperate people, frightened people, those who feel misunderstood, politicians in Congress…

We all need to take a breath. Chances are, pausing will help quell anger, and actions will change for the better.

I may need to pause for my reasons, and you may need to pause for yours.

But everyone – EVERYONE – needs to pause more.