When Atal Behari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India, I always wondered what could be the reason behind the pauses he took between speaking. Sometimes I thought it was because of old age, and sometimes this habit of his was even used by people to make fun of him, but I was always amused by the wisdom of his words. Not just his political speeches, but his writings and poems in particular. In this article, I am going to focus on the power of a simple ‘pause‘ and the impact it can have on our lives.
Most of the time when we are conversing, we have something in mind to ‘say next‘, so as soon as the other person stops speaking, we are out with our words lest he start again. So most of the time we are not talking, we are actually ‘waiting‘ to talk. But just as whatever the other person said didn’t make any sense to you because you were not listening attentively, whatever you speak next will make no difference to the conversation either. Have you ever wondered why so many of our conversations are fruitless, even when it seems that both parties have spoken a lot. There is something missing in such conversations, and you guessed it right, it is the PAUSE.
A small pause before we start to speak or answer can do wonders to a conversation. Sometimes the person on the other side has a lot more to say but is hesitant and so he stopped. By taking a pause after he has stopped speaking, and maybe using words like hmm… uh.. ok.. but not jumping in with our views, we can let the other person complete and get out whatever he has in his mind. We can even ask follow up questions like – “Do you have anything else to add?” before beginning to speak ourselves.
In my various conversations where I have been aware to take a pause (because to speak up is so unconscious that we don’t even realize it many times), I have noticed that speaking up after letting the other person finish leads to more fruitful conversations and both parties are left in a state of fulfillment and satisfaction. This satisfaction is of being heard, and the satisfaction of being understood. What’s more strange is that sometimes I don’t even have to speak up, and the conversation automatically leads to where I wanted it to go by just listening. As people are listened to, they let their rigidity of stance soften and consider your view point even without you asking for it. Such is the power of listening.
Action and Reaction
Every moment in our lives, whether small or big, can be summed by either action or reaction. Everything that happens in our daily lives is either something external (action) or something we do (reaction) after the external stimulus. Most of the times, both action and reaction are simultaneous, with no gap between them. An example could be your spouse asking the ‘same‘ question every morning and you replying with the same response without even blinking, or being conscious of what you said. The same happens in the traffic on a busy intersection, or at work when your boss or colleague makes a comment and you reply with your own ‘trademark‘ comment or gesture almost instantaneously.
It is like we don’t have control over ourselves in such moments, that the response (in language or gesture) almost automatically and unconsciously comes out, without even giving you a chance of thinking and pondering about it. It is because there is no ‘pause‘ as our mind becomes accustomed to certain situations and their responses and does the job for us without even waiting to check with the real us. Yes, the real ‘us’. The real you has the power to stop your mind from taking control, and make it pause and think and then respond in whatever way you feel necessary.
If we can learn to stop to take a pause after every action and not let the automated response get out, we can make a huge difference in our lives. We can stop our anger before it spills out on strangers or our near and dear ones. By a simple pause, we can catch our ego and stop ourselves from taking decisions which we might end up regretting later on.
Pausing enables us to ask what our true job is, to ponder where our priorities lie, and more importantly, it creates a space for ourselves and for others. It creates positive energy instead of building tension and enables us to handle tough situations in a more mature way. Now, as this article ends, I recommend taking a ‘pause‘ to think about your day and where you could use a PAUSE today.