One of the most important skills to master in effective communication is that of “pause”. Mark Twain nailed it when he said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was as effective as a rightly timed pause.”
For most of us, we live our lives literally pulled around by the chain of reaction to what someone has said or done. Before we have considered what to say or do in reply, the words are flying out of our mouths or our feet, arms, hands are taking action. This happens with things that stimulate us positively or negatively. We are puppets on the strings of reaction.
It takes some deal of intention when one first sets out to find the moment of the effective “pause”. Some call it “the sacred moment” because it is here that compassionate communication has its heartbeat. I call it the “fulcrum point” because it is here that choice lies; here that we can exercise our power to make life more wonderful for all….including ourselves; it is here where two elements of conversation meet – the words spoken and the words heard (which more than likely are not the same!). This is where the rubber meets the road.
When we have enough practice to find and hold the pause, we then find the space holding a curious nature. We actually slow down time in a sense because we are not being pulled by the strings of reaction, rather we intend to respond from a place of understanding. Rather than reaction from pain, we acknowledge that we are experiencing pain in response to what has occurred. Rather than assuming we know what the other person’s intention behind the words/actions were; we ask for clarification. Whatever we choose, we begin to take awareness of how we are in the pause.
This week practice the pause. Simply notice what happens when you let a few moments pass before you respond to someone’s words or actions. Notice yourself in that space. Notice your physical feelings – your breath, heartbeat, tightness of the jaw or chest. Notice what words spring to your lips – Catch them before they spill out and consider if they hold the meaning and tension you want. Just notice what is happening in that pause. Is it adding to or taking away from your sense of and contribution to peace?