I SAW A FACEBOOK POST this week that got me reacting big time. I was so annoyed and found my fingers on the keyboard ready to type out some nasty shit. And then I paused. I took a breath. And I asked myself, “What good will my comment serve?”
Then I stepped away from the keyboard.
How often do you find yourself regretting an answer? A reaction? An outburst? Whether when invited to dinner, when asked to help out in some way, or when your buttons get pushed, learning to pause before responding can save you a lot of grief.
Knee-jerk reactions are a big cause of emotional and mental clutter. You don’t want to be that friend who accepts invitations and then cancels at the last minute (full disclosure: this used to be me), or someone who wants to be the hero or to be liked so you say yes to every request only to have resentment breed fast.
No matter the situation, a few seconds can be a lifesaver. And often a few seconds is all that’s needed. I call it “The Power of the Pause.”
To practice the pause, simply take a breath when an invitation or request comes your way or when you get triggered.
“Hey, you want to go to dinner tonight/tomorrow/this weekend?”
Not excited at the idea? Honor that feeling.
“I’m not available tonight, but let me check my calendar for the next week or so and I’ll get back to you.”
A fear of the other person’s feelings getting hurt might compel you to immediately agree to something you’re on the fence about, when in fact you might not want to go simply because you’re tired or you’ve been running around like crazy and need a break. Give yourself some space and time to consider the invitation and then you’ll be able to answer in an honest way, keeping the relationship channels between you and the other person clean.
Or let’s say you’ve been asked to volunteer at your child’s school or to take on a community activity at work, try this:
“My plate is pretty full right now so I wouldn’t be able to give the event/project/fundraiser the time it deserves. Sorry I can’t be of more help.”
This doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent or lazy employee. It simply means what you said — that you wouldn’t be able to give it your best.
Sure, it might feel uncomfortable to decline invitations or requests, but accepting out of guilt or obligation clutters up your spirit and keeps you in the vicious cycle of agreement and self-betrayal.
Pausing to check in helps you identify the boundaries you need to set and recognize with whom you may give too much of yourself to. Combine this with language you’re comfortable using when declining and you’ll no longer fear being caught off guard.
This same approach works great with yourself, too. Maybe you’re a worrier by nature and something is currently making you uneasy. Stop and check in about the purpose of your worrying. Is it productive, meaning there is something you can do to address the concern, or is it non-productive, meaning you’re just spinning your wheels worrying but there’s truly no action you can take to alleviate it.
Instead of defaulting to old habits, come off autopilot and take a moment before saying “yes.” If you want to be in charge of your life and continue making strides toward your goals, add the pause to your toolbox.
After all, nothing changes if nothing changes.
Now I want to hear from you.
- Do you often find yourself in commitments out of guilt and obligation?
Where could you use a pause?
What prompts you to be an automatic “yes” person?
Let’s chat in the comments below.