In our everyday life, many times emotion overrides logical and rational thoughts. We sometimes have regrets after we say or do something driven by emotion and wish we would have done it differently. In addition, nervous energy can seem to take the reins of our interactions whether it is a presentation or a first date. A technique in cognitive behavior therapy is called Practice the Pause and it is something everyone can benefit from implementing.

The first method is one that has made its way through society and entertainment. This is the scenario where you feel anger rising up and you pause to count to ten. It can be a conversation, reading social media, watching a television show, or a work event. Anytime you feel anger rising up in you, that emotion is overriding rational thought, so you pause and count to allow that anger to subside enough to engage that logical brain. At this point you can think rationally about whether a response from you is necessary and if it is, make it a rational and thoughtful one instead of emotional.

The second method of practicing the pause is seeking to understand being understood yourself. In a disagreement, always seek to understand the other person’s argument first, before sharing yours. Making someone feel heard calms them and in turn calms yourself as you bring your logical mind into full swing. An added benefit is the other person now feels obliged to do you the same courtesy which results in two people thinking about both sides of the argument instead of two angry people yelling their opinions and not hearing each other.

The next method is pausing before answering a question. Our brain needs time to process a question and make connections to form a logical rebuttal or response. Unless the other person is practicing the pause, an emotional response begets an emotional response and then you have an escalation. The pause gives you the time to gather your best thoughts to respond with and allows the other person to take some breaths.

Onto the method that addresses the nervous energy related to presenting, public speaking, interviews, and so on. We have all witnessed someone who is nervous and how fast they speak. Not only does it make us a little off-balance energetically, but we get the urge to breathe for them. Practice speaking about 20% slower so people can absorb your words, sense your confidence, and relax with you. In addition, pause in between thoughts, main statements, slides, or key information to take a breath and engage your parasympathetic nervous system. This allows your mind to form the next thought calmly and the audience to really grasp the information. Practice the Pause when asked a question by saying something like, “That is a great question, let me think about that a moment.” Then drop your eyes and may your chin slightly as you breathe and let the answer formulate. Raise your eyes and chin, take a breath and smile as you proceed to answer the question or say honestly, “You know, I do not have that answer right now but can get back you with the answer.” People appreciate honesty.

The last method is related to triggers for undesirable behaviors and thoughts. The best thing to do is to identify triggers and eliminate them, however, we cannot always avoid them. Practice the pause when a trigger occurs to avoid the undesirable behavior with the pause either being aa minute or up to 24 hours. If your trauma of being judged or criticized is triggered and you usually respond with emotional hurtful tone and language. Say in your mind, “STOP!”, then take a couple normal breath while realizing either you misunderstood the intention, or the person is projecting, or it is not worth a response. Ask for clarification on what the person meant by the comment in a calm tone with intention to learn so as not to unnecessarily escalate the conversation. If your unhealthy coping method is to shop compulsively, say to yourself, “STOP!”, then wait 24 hours to allow the urge to subside. Just a couple examples of this method but can be applied to anything.

A summary of ways to Practice the Pause:

    • Pause before sending emotionally charged emails.
    • Pause before posting heated comments on social media.
    • Pause to examine our own biases.
    • Pause to listen more before being too quick to speak.
    • Pause before talking badly or gossiping about someone.
    • Pause when feeling impatient.
    • Pause when feeling stressed or exhausted.
    • Pause before becoming overwhelmed.
    • Pause before being so quick to defend yourself.
    • Pause when providing information either one on one or to a group.
    • Pause before answering a question to engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
    • Pause before engaging in undesirable behavior or bad habits.

Practicing the Pause is a Cognitive Behavior Therapy technique, and the key is to be consistent and persistent. Repetition over time is important for it to become coded in your subconscious so you begin to do it without thinking. Learning anything new requires practice and this is no exception. I have full faith you can do it if you really want to. I wish you wonderful success in your efforts.