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How To: Practice the Pause

When do we practice the pause?

“Practice the pause. Pause before judging. Pause before assuming. Pause before accusing. Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly and you’ll avoid doing and saying things you’ll later regret.”

Lori Deschene
serious young woman resting on curb and looking away learning to practice the pause
Take a beat to consider what you’re about to say.

Lori Deschene has such a great idea in the quote above. It is beneficial to take a moment and practice the pause before we do anything rash, inflammatory, or upsetting.

To practice the pause means to delay your response to whatever is going on just long enough to allow your brain to catch up with what you may be about to say out of strong emotion.

Rage, fear, pain, etc are all capable of blocking our prefrontal cortex so that we are unable to check the meaning and consequences of our words before they come spilling out. Creating a space between the moment that our response occurs to us and the moment we actually say it can really improve the outcome of any interaction.

Most people don’t like being yelled at, belittled, or otherwise abused. Unfortunately, when we feel threatened, we sometimes go into attack mode to protect ourselves. This can lead us to say things meant to hurt others.

boxing man who does not know how to practice the pause
Pause before fighting.

These kinds of statements can escalate an argument causing things to grow to unmanageable proportions. This is how fights break out, be they physical, verbal, or otherwise. And this is rarely the most desirable outcome.

How Do We Practice The Pause?

There is a two part strategy for practicing the pause: recognition and breathing.

First, we have to learn to recognize when what we’re about to say is harmful.

This is relatively easy if you know the trick: check in with your body.

Our bodies are complex machines that feel emotions very deeply. We can use the physical cues that emerge in our body when we are about to do something fueled by emotion to warn us that a pause may be needed imminently.

You want to watch out for the cues that are similar to those evoked by the fight or flight response. These often include quick pulse, sweating, shallow breathing and even shaking. If any of these are going on, you can bet that you aren’t thinking clearly about what you’re about to say.

The second step offers a solution for this: stop to take a breath before you speak.

man wearing black cap with eyes closed under cloudy sky
For best results: breathe deep.

Stopping to breathe gives your brain a much needed oxygen boost, and allows it a chance to analyze your response. The brain works very quickly, so even only a split second pause can be enough time to change your mind about what you’re about to say.

Give your brain a second to play the story forward and consider what may happen as an outcome of your statement. You may want to ask yourself if this response will get you closer to the outcome you desire? And, will you regret it later?

Try to see the big picture ramifications before you act.

There are many other questions you can ask yourself in this gap that can prevent a lot of unnecessary damage to yourself an others. So give yourself the opportunity to come up with something better and more diplomatic to say that will enhance communication and cool the emotions present. After all, acting out of reflex often does not get us the best results.

Try this strategy out and let us know how it goes for you. We love hearing from you!

Also, please like and share this article so that others can learn how to practice the pause.

Here are links to other articles you may find helpful:

Why It Is Important to Forgive

Using The Power of Choice

How To Get What You Want

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