In the Pause

Sometimes inclement weather does the trick. I jot down these words on a rain-drenched Saturday morning in South Florida.

No desire to run about. No temptation to roam the beach. I settle in. Exhale. Pause.

It is Memorial Day week-end in the US. An extra day to not work. To reflect perhaps and celebrate what truly matters in our lives. To pause.

I think of the conversation I have with Gabriel, a CFO I had the pleasure of coaching for a half-year stretch. I cherished my conversations with Gabriel. He is immensely likable, smart, results-oriented, driven. At times, Gabriel’s impatience and external pressures get the best of him. In this, our final conversation that ends our formal coaching engagement, I ask Gabriel to tell me what he took away from our coaching conversations.

To pause, he says.

Perfect answer, I think to myself.

If you are a modern-age professional, we expect you to be self-aware and reflect. At its best, this self-awareness is present in every moment. You engage with another person, and you are at the same time aware of the quality of your engagement and the choices you make. I call this ability double-tracking. In the moment, and watchful of the moment, all at once.

Reflection, however, tends to happen in a pause. The pause is the moment in-between active engagement. Often only milliseconds long. But whoa – what glorious things happen in a pause.

  1. In the pause I catch myself My obsessive thinking, my obliviousness to my surroundings, my inattention to the cues I receive from the other person, my urge to retort with a habitual response. Yes, all of that. That’s the catch.

  2. In the pause I clear myself Release the mind chatter, the rising emotion, the urge to disagree, the desire to be right. Yes, I let it go, all of that. That’s the clearing.

  3. In the pause I consider the “other” Switch my attention from my thoughts to a genuine desire to understand the other. Her request. His demand. Their underlying motivation. Yes, I switch from me-thinking to you-thinking. A transformative consideration.

  4. In the pause I recalibrate My response to the other. I choose language that demonstrates understanding. A tone that invites. An energy that fosters connection. Yes, I advance the conversation and don’t allow it to get stuck. That’s the gift of recalibration.

All of this can happen in a pause. The moment when we stop. Mere milliseconds, most of the time.

To pause, he says.

Yes, it’s a pretty perfect answer.