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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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Achim Nowak is an author, speaker, C-Suite coach, international authority on personal presence. His book "The Moment: A Practical Guide to Creating a Mindful Life in a Distracted World" (New Page Books) has just been published. His previous books have become prized resources for entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 executives around the globe. Achim and his work have been featured on 60 Minutes, Fox News, NPR, in The New York Times and The Miami Herald.