The Mighty Power of the Pause

I have a friend who likes to ask about my holidays. I especially remember his question about Thanksgiving. Rather than saying “How was your Thanksgiving turkey?” he places a strategic pause in the question to make it “How was your Thanksgiving, Turkey?” That one minor pause changes the whole character and meaning of the question. The pause has the power to create humor…or subtly insult the listener. We must use it with caution in our family conversations to avoid insulting one another.

Closeup portrait, young, happy, smiling woman showing time out gesture with hands, isolated yellow background. Positive human emotions, facial expressions, feelings, body language, reaction, attitude

A slightly different scenario plays out with my wife and me on occasion. The other day, for example, she said, “I hate that. Can’t you change?” I was stymied. My mind began to race through the current conversation and the previous two days. What did I do? What does she want me to change? Why am I the one who always has to change anyway? What about…?  Suddenly, she interrupted my racing thoughts by finishing her question with the words “…the TV channel?” Oh, relief flowed through my body as I realized she didn’t like the TV show coming on and she wanted me to change the channel. An ill-placed pause left room for my insecurities and racing mind to jump to the wrong conclusions. The pause has the subtle power to create misunderstandings.

Just the other day I had another experience with the power of the pause…a slightly different experience. My wife and I were talking about my daughter moving in to an apartment with her friends. I was faced with a difficult choice: take an unpaid vacation to help her or let her and my wife handle it alone so I could work. I wanted to help my daughter but finances are tight. Frustration gave intensity to my voice. I’m sure I sounded angry and my wife most likely felt my anger pointed toward her. In a moment of wisdom, I sat back and quit talking. In the pause of that silence I could take a breath and collect my thoughts. “I want to be there for our daughter,” I said. My wife replied, “You’re going to miss her aren’t you?” It was true. A pause, my silence and my wife’s willingness to wait through that silence, brought clarity to our conversation and my emotions. It allowed us to understand and connect. It brought us closer. Yes, the pause has great power for good as well. The pause allows for the building of intimacy and understanding.

The power of the pause can result in pain or joy. It has the power to disconnect or build greater intimacy. Be aware of the mighty power of the pause…and use it wisely!

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