Coaching for Creatives | The Pause

ThePause

The day after I discovered I was pregnant I downloaded the parenting book and easy-read “Bringing up Bebe” on my Kindle. (I promise this isn’t actually a pregnancy post – hang tight – I have a point.) So this book is all about an American woman raising her babies in France and how they do it different (and as the author suggests, better) from her American counterparts. One of the biggest concepts of the book that I latched onto and can still recall 8 months later is the idea of The Pause. The author notes that French women pause before reacting to their babies. Whether it’s a baby fussing in the middle-of-the-night or a toddler throwing a mid-day tantrum. Pausing can offer perspective and time to let things sort themselves out. Even just a few seconds of pausing can keep us from depleting our own energy from unnecessary reacting.

Now replace “babies” with “clients”, “stressful feedback”, “relationships”, “business opportunities”, “offended readers”, and “decision-making”. Insightful beyond just parenting, right? I recently learned that I’m an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs personality test – and a few of my dominant personality traits are that I like to act fast, make decisions on the fly, and pretty can’t stand anything being unresolved. I have a hard time living in the question – I want answers – even if I have to make them up myself. I’ve never been one to “sleep on it”. These hot spark characteristics usually work to my advantage – especially in business. But sometimes the need for immediate resolution and answers gets me into hot water, on thin ice, and between rocks and hard places (pretty much all the cliches apply).

As I’ve gained experience working with some brilliant consultants, considerate thinkers, and creative business owners, one of the personality traits I’ve really come to admire in others is the ability to pause. Here are a few real-life examples of where I could use some practice with the pause – maybe some of them will resonate with you too:

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Pause before saying yes or no – I can’t get through a single day in my RSS feed without reading an article about saying no. And while I tend to agree with the intent behind saying no (usually having something to do with work / life balance), I don’t think it’s always the best answer. Hitting the pavement and saying yes over and over again has gotten me so much further down my path than I could’ve ever imagined. It has taught me which opportunities, projects, committees, and engagements work – and which ones don’t.

So these days instead of jumping to commit “yes” or “no” on the spot I say “Let me take some time to think about it. Can I let you know by [date]?” Or for example – if it’s a potential client that may not fit my dream customer profile, I’ll say something like “Maybe we could set up a time to Skype and see if we’re a good fit.” So I’m not skirting the responsibility of making a decision but rather adjusting the timeline of my required response. I take time to pause and actually think it over and can come back with an articulate and considered response as to why I’m saying yes or no.

Pause before reacting to criticism – Whether it’s an offended blog reader or an unsatisfied client – I usually want to be right, and make it right ASAP. But lately I’ve learned that pausing before offering a reaction allows me come to a solution from a much more level-headed, rational, and not-so-emotional or defensive space. Sometimes the pause even gives me time to realize that the offense had nothing to do with me, or criticism was much more perceived than an actual reality.

Pause in conversation – I’m a space-filler. Usually because I’m opinionated and never lack something to say in most instances. But lately, especially when I’m coaching, networking, or even in book club with friends, I take time to pause. This gives me an opportunity to actively listen – which is something I’m really just now learning the value of. Also, you appear smart, calm, and professional when you’re not constantly jumping in with half-baked ideas. You know… that whole “thinking before speaking” thing. (That said, I love a good rambling brainstorm and think there’s lots of value to that too – but that’s a whole other post).

Pause before nagging – This is more personal but pausing before nagging makes for a much happier partnership. Need I say more?

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When are times that you practice (or could stand to practice) The Pause?  

P.S. If you like this post you might like my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. It’s 4 emails x 4 weeks (16 emails total) for just $40. Complete with worksheets, exercises, mantras, meditations, and to-dos for time management, decision-making, and strategies for living more of what you love – in work and life. You can learn more about what you’ll get and purchase anytime here.

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  1. SusanA

    Pause before reacting to criticism: This one has me written all over it, especially when it comes to online interactions. When I can’t look someone in the eye or hear their tone of voice, intentions can be misunderstood, feelings can be hurt, emotional emails can be exchanged. I don’t like unresolved tensions, so I want to deal with any perceived issues in the moment. And “perceived” is very much the key word!

    This past year, I’ve been learning to pause before reacting. When I walk away, take a breath (or two or ten), and just let things rest for a bit, I find that, more often than not, offense was never given in the first place. Most people really are goodhearted, and pausing allows me to see that and react in kind.

    • One thing I do when I read an email that comes across as negative or even short is I’ll read it in an upbeat tone of voice. It changes my whole perspective! And when it comes to clients – that’s when sometimes it’s good to just pick up the phone or hop on Skype.

      I’ve also come to recognize that anytime I become defensive it’s really because I’m afraid – which allows me to be a lot more compassionate with myself (and others) when choosing how to react.

      • SusanA

        “I’ve also come to recognize that anytime I become defensive it’s really because I’m afraid”

        Yes! I’ve also noticed that when someone becomes offensive, rather than defensive, it’s often because they, too, are afraid. Compassion definitely is the best first reaction all around!

  2. Crystal

    For me, a real indicator that I need to take a pause before reacting to criticism is if my face gets hot. When I can think of the situation without getting hot in the face, then I know I’m in the clear to respond. Anything that comes out before that, I can guarantee I will regret.

    I really need to work on pausing during conversation too. I ramble like it’s no one’s business.

    • Oh, good call on checking in with your body to gauge how you’re feeling!

      The physical symptom I get when I’m angry (and should pause) is I get really dizzy. Like I feel like my whole world is tilting.

      I’m going to start paying attention to how I physically react when I need to pause in not so stressful situations (like conversations where I could just be a better listener).

      • Crystal

        Oh, that’s so interesting that you get dizzy! Wow, it makes me wonder more about how anger manifests itself physically in other people. My physical reaction during conversation when I could use a pause is that my breathing gets shallow and I’m out of breath. If that isn’t a sign that I need to stop talking and listen more, then I don’t know what is!

        • SusanA

          My face gets hot as well; then my fingers and toes tingle and my hands shake. Until now, I’ve been aware of those cues, but only in a peripheral way. Time to start paying attention and taking a pause!

  3. I’m smack in the middle of “Bringing up Bebe” and LOVING the book! Couldn’t agree more that the concept of “the pause” is applicable to just about every area of life. Sometimes the most simple solutions are hiding in plain sight.

  4. Abigail

    I just took the test this weekend and I’m an ENFP as well! This is such good advice – especially since I tend to let my feelings take control instead of pausing to think.

  5. I agree that saying yes to everything can really move things along for you. It has catapulted me this year! Momentum is a crazy powerful thing. This will be the theme of my end of the year post, talking about how I ended up somewhere I had no idea I would end up this time last year by taking every opportunity that came my way in 2013.

    That said, it has been SUPER hard on everyone around me for me to take all these opportunities. I am so excited to take this momentum and turn it around so that the things I do work for everyone, and on my schedule. I also am afraid I’ll lose my edge if I do this, so I’ll be monitoring that along the way. You sort of learn as you go that you can wait and think about some things and they won’t disappear overnight if you take a minute to think about them.

    Good post! xo

  6. Jessica

    I’m really glad to see a response to all the “learn to say no” blog posts I’ve been grappling with this year. I get what a lot of these bloggers are trying to say, but I keep falling short of agreeing and seeing the whole picture. There’s always a “but what if!” screaming behind a closed door in the back of my mind. Applying “a pause” is a fantastic idea for every corner of our lives. I don’t know where we think time will go, but it seems like people need to be and act immediately or else their time will just slip away! I know I have fallen into that trap before. Definitely going to exercise this method in my personal life as well as my business <3

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