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A “Rightly Timed Pause”

“The right word may be effective but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Mark Twain

I like this quote a lot. It is a reminder to me that we are “at choice” when it comes to when and how we engage in conflict. That is, often the best response when someone upsets us with things they say or do is to take a “rightly timed pause”. This week’s Conflict Mastery Quest(ions) blog invites you to consider when and how to use pauses.

Let’s consider the definition first. Dictionary-wise there are several definitions and I’ll refer to this one: “a temporary stop or rest, especially in speech or action”.

This way of describing pause is relevant to the point of this blog because it implies intention, choice and emotional regulation – three important ingredients of effective conflict management. The trick is, of course, to learn to stop ourselves when we are triggered and usually react to our detriment. At these times, we often go too quickly to blame, to defensiveness, and to other responses that do not help the situation.

If you tend to react, consider the questions below by bringing to mind a specific dispute in which you reacted without pausing.

  • What was the situation?
  • How did you react that you wished you hadn’t?
  • What specifically seemed to propel you to react?
  • What emotions were you experiencing?
  • What thoughts came to your head?
  • If you had paused, rather than reacted, what would a “pause” actually look like?
  • What would you have to be thinking that would be different from your thoughts when you reacted?
  • What emotions might you draw on to make the pause easier?
  • Once you paused, what might you have said or done that would be less reactive?
  • What do you suppose makes it hard to “pause” and think before reacting, in ways you would rather not, when someone offends you?
  • What else occurs to you as you consider these questions?
  • What insights do you have?

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