The Power of the Pause

“Between every stimulus and response, there is a space.”  – Vicktor Frankl

When I am asked if I only had time to offer one thing to a couple to support them in making an immediate positive difference in their relationship,
you may or may not be surprised that it is … drumroll …

… to pause.

Between when your partner says or does something and when you say or do something, there is an opportunity to self-connect, self-soothe, and choose.

When you’re upset …

  • you’re more likely to say or do something unkind
  • you’re more likely to say or do something that you don’t mean or will regret
  • you’re more likely to do the same things you tend to do that have contributed to where you are in your relationship now

Pausing when you’re upset empowers you to choose, not to react.

Easier said than done, right?!?  

Pulling this off takes intention and practice.  I provide a brief snapshot of how to practice and develop the skill of pausing below:

  1. Get to know your unique bodily sensations profile for when you’re upset.
  2. Notice when those bodily sensations arise in the moment.  Especially when they are at a low level of intensity.
  3. Allow the bodily sensations and greet them as messengers.
  4. Associate the arrival of the bodily sensations as a cue to breathe and do nothing.
  5. Give yourself the gift of self-compassion.
  6. Rinse and repeat as necessary until you feel more calm and have more resources.
  7. If a greater calm and more options are not forthcoming, consider asking for a break from the interaction.

This list looks like a long series of steps.  When I was just starting out in making these changes in my life, I was concerned …

“Won’t my partner notice that I am taking long pauses between when they say or do something and when I respond?”

The good news is that it turns out that with more and more practice, all of these steps get “integrated together” and they become automated. 

An analogy is if you remember what it was like when you were learning to drive … Every step (checking the side mirror, looking left, looking right, foot off the break, foot off the gas …) took conscious effort and was slllooooowwww.  You were just learning.  Even after a few weeks of consistent practice, those sequential steps become a natural, unconscious skill that happens very fast.

Learning to notice when upset arises, pausing, self-soothing, and choosing are skills.  It takes practice.

My intention is to share these tips with as many people as possible.  If it speaks to you, please share this post with others via the social media buttons. 

We learn from each other.  We are supported by each other. In the comments section below, please share your experiences with trying to pause, what works for you, what has been challenging.