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Asking for a Pause

I am guessing you have had interactions in which you lost track of your own truth and being able to express it. What seemed a straightforward conversation ended up in an argument or you agreeing to something to which you never wanted to agree.  Being able to ask for a pause in a conversation is one of the most simple and effective ways to create a clear connection with yourself and someone else.  In that pause you breath deeply and slow down.  You notice your own experience, ask yourself what your intention is, and get curious about the other person's needs.
 
The first step in learning to ask for a pause in a conversation starts with cultivating awareness about what gets in your way of asking for a pause.  There are all sorts of reasons you might feel compelled to respond immediately in an interaction.  The connection might feel tenuous and you want to hold onto the other person with your words.  You might think you need to please the other out fear or guilt.  You might think that a quick response gives you power or competence and you want to keep the upper hand.  You might be worried you will forget the point you want to make. 
 
Reflect on the last conversation in which you would have liked to say what was really true for you and didn't.  Notice if any of the thought habits mentioned above or some other habit of thought got in your way.  Making this kind of reflection a daily practice is something that will support you in being able to pause in a critical moment.
 
The second step is to give yourself permission to turn some of your focus inward and let go of attention to superficial details.  In school and work environments you have learned to listen for content and track details.  This is important for learning facts and getting practical tasks completed.  In creating a personal connection, however, this kind of listening often gets in the way.  In a personal connection, if you are solely focused on getting the details of what someone is saying, you lose out on what's really alive for him or her.
 
In creating a mindful personal connection let some of your attention rest in your hara or center.  Let the remainder of your attention rest on the feelings, energy, body language, and expression of needs in the other person.  Feel the discomfort of not understanding and/or not following the impulse to argue with the content.  Then refocus your attention on the aliveness of the interaction. 
 
If you are practicing in this way, you will be able to call a pause early in the conversation because you will be able to notice points of tension and disconnect just as they are arising, well before you are lost in pleasing the other person or other forms of reactivity.  Calling a pause could sound all sorts of ways.  Here are a few examples:

  • Hmm, give me a minute to take in what you said.
  • I need a moment to process that.
  • Can we come back to that in a few minutes?
  • Hang on.  Let me see if I got what you said.
  • Can you pause for a minute?   I am losing track of what you're saying and I really want to understand.
With a partner, it's helpful to create a reliable visual signal for a pause that you can both use and receive easily.  Here are few examples: closing your eyes, putting your hand on your heart, putting your hand on your head, raising your hand, a gentle touch on the arm or knee of your partner.
 
Calling a pause will quickly become a habit in a partnership or other close relationship when it is used to create more connection.  If you use a pause to cut the other person off, promote your agenda, correct the other person's view or memory, criticize, or argue a point; trust and connection will erode.
 
After a pause return to the person who was speaking and make sure that person has a sense of being heard.
 
Practice
This week, at the end of each day, review your interactions.  Notice those in which you were able to stay mindful and centered and what contributed to that occurring for you.  Notice those in which you lost track of yourself and/or the connection.  What interfered with your sense of connection and your ability to call a pause and reconnect?

 

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Your Partner as Problem and Solution
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