The Power of the Pause in Keeping Peace with People

When you react you are giving away your power. When you respond you are staying in control of yourself. -Bob Proctor tweet

The difference between reacting and responding

The difference between reacting and responding is found in the pause.  We’ve all done it – blown up at someone in a split second. Certainly, there are times when in hindsight we can see that the reaction was because we were hungry, running late for something, in pain, hormonal or other another physical reality that heightened our sensitivity. However, there are times, whether we recognize them or not when it comes down to our emotional intelligence (ouch). Emotional intelligence is our ability to feel an emotion without having to act upon it. With attention to the pause, we can strengthen and grow our emotional intelligence.

P – Peace

Pause to ask yourself. How important is my own peace? In other words, choosing to react is the equivalent of throwing away your peace. Is the person that cut you off in traffic worth throwing away your peace? How about the poor service at the checkout? What person in your life is truly worth throwing away your peace for? And how will throwing away your peace benefit the relationship?

A – Acknowledge

Take a few moments to acknowledge internally what you’re feeling without reacting. Saying to yourself things like “This is very aggravating but I will not throw my peace away on this”, “That was very hurtful but I will choose to examine why I’m hurt so that I can continue this conversation in a productive way when emotions aren’t so intense”, etc.

U – Understanding

Seek to understand the emotions of the individual that is triggering a reaction. Could they be tired, hungry, hormonal or emotionally hurting? Giving them grace or extending compassion could be the very act that turns their day around. Recognizing that people (strangers or those who love us) aren’t out to get us. They didn’t wake up this morning contemplating “how can I get a rise out of ____” Moving from a victim (they are doing this to me) to victory over our reactions comes through understanding.

S – Self-awareness

Often overlooked is the need to be more self-aware in our relationships.  If we recognize that today we aren’t feeling well, we are tired, in pain or just off, then we can utilize this awareness to be more intentional in our responses. When something arises that would normally cause an emotional rise, we have the opportunity to be authentic with others.

E – Embrace & Empower

Embrace each opportunity to respond rather than react as an opportunity to grow your emotional intelligence. Likewise, you’ll also grow your relationships by empowering and inspiring others to do the same.  Inevitably, without even mentioning it, your peace, self-awareness, understanding, and authenticity will inspire them to examine their own emotional intelligence.

Grab your journal; it’s your turn to grow

Take a few moments and reflect on the moments this week you have reacted instead of responded:

  1. In reviewing the pause model what area was the downfall in that interaction?
  2. What steps can you take to grow in that area?
  3. Who in your life models the pause well? Send them an encouraging note with a link to this article and thank them for modeling the pause for you. Let them know you appreciate their inspiration. Perhaps even ask them a question to help you on your growth journey.


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