The power of pause
This morning I went for a walk along the river at the bottom of our property. Swollen after recent heavy rains, little eddies gently swirled around the banks where the platypus play. The grasses and bushes stretched themselves to the sun, raindrops glistening on their foliage. A wedge-tail eagle circled silently overhead and kookaburras sat patiently, hoping to capture a frog or two for breakfast.
And in the quiet of nature, I stopped, and paused... and revelled in the day.
My heart rate slowed. I breathed deeply. I felt calm and joyful on the inside, fully conscious in the moment. Refreshed, I continued on my walk.
At a time when daily pressures urge us to do more and more, faster and faster, to be connected to the world 24/7, we generally recognise that taking time to pause is a precious and necessary gift to our health, our sleep, and our energy levels.
Most of us take time to pause in a variety of ways, and for varying lengths of time. What we don't always recognise is the gift that pausing brings to our conversations, with multiple benefits for you, for those you are talking with, and for the topic or issue at hand.
Pausing offers the talker and the listener/s space to 'hear' to understand, to process and to take a 'helicopter' view of what is being said, and perhaps what is not being said. When you consciously step outside yourself to *meta-reflect in this way, you are more able to monitor and direct the course of what is happening. (*See Book 5, Learning Talk: important conversations at work, pp 80-81)
Pausing to reclaim time to think and to breathe is especially important:
1. Feeling ambushed: strategies to use
These three common scenarios are intended as scaffolds to help you think about times when you have felt 'ambushed'. Use or adapt the suggestions for how you might respond to your own situation and context.
'I can be in my office, working at the computer on an important deadline, when someone will rush through the door, sit down and say 'Have you got a minute? I'm absolutely seething over Kate: she's done it again!'
You might say: 'I don't right now because I have a 3pm deadline on this. You're upset, and we need to be able to talk calmly about the situation, so let's meet first thing tomorrow morning...'
(Assertively and respectfully says 'no', explains why, pro-actively reminds person of need to be calm for conversation, and makes a time to meet.)
'I'll be walking down the hallway on an important mission, and a team member will rush up and say 'I've got to talk to you urgently – we have to do something about..!'
You might say: 'I know this is important to you, and it's too important for a rushed conversation – we need to sit down and allow due time to talk...what about meeting... suggests time'.
(Acknowledges importance, need for proper time to be given, negotiates time.)
'During meetings, we have one particular team member who will say 'I know it's not on the agenda, but we really need to make a decision about...'
You might say: 'I need some time to think about this – let's put it on our *Unfinished Business chart for our next meeting.'
(Assertively requests reflection time, acknowledges issue and signals intent to act)
* This strategy helps to maximise and maintain focus of conversation and minimize distractions, so important during precious meeting time.
2. Pause during conversations: strategies to use
Model the effective use of pause with these two practical strategies:
You can find more practical strategies and stories to help you use 'pause' effectively in Book 4, Learning Talk: develop the art of inquiry, pp 25-27.
Remember, what you pay conscious attention to, flourishes!