As 2018 wraps up, like many people, I am reflecting on this last year.. What has changed, what experiences have taken place within and around me and most importantly, what have I learned. A word that comes to my mind when I think about the last year is intention. I started the year committed to being more intentional with my thoughts and language.
One of the big things that comes up for me within the topic of language is how often do we take a moment to pause before reacting and speaking? How often do we reflect on the tone that we use for ourselves and with others? Are we taking the opportunity to learn and get better with how we communicate?
As a whole, we aren't necessarily taught this idea of "pause" from a young age. Pausing before speaking is something we reflect on as we get older. Since this isn't a learned behavior, we really have to take the time to be patient with ourselves and practice.
One of the subsets within language I've been dissecting internally is how I respond when someone is experiencing emotional discomfort or pain. A typical response is to want to fix it or to bring someone away from that feeling of pain. Have you had an experience where you express your discomfort with someone and they respond with, "well it could be worse", or they compare it to a situation that they are experiencing and say, "at least it's not as bad as what I'm dealing with". This can be said in a much softer tone but still makes us feel like our situation and feelings are being overlooked. Also, we then feel guilt around our experience, that it's not so bad and we shouldn't complain. We do this whole fixing thing because sitting in someone else's discomfort is uncomfortable. And who wants to be uncomfortable, right??
So what's another option for us in these sorts of situations? What if we respond with empathy? What if we sit in their discomfort with them? This doesn't mean we need to take on someone else's feelings, but we are simply sitting with them in their discomfort. We hear them. We acknowledge that it sucks. Sure, we can give them a different perspective if we've been consented to do so but we don't try and fix it.
This requires us to pause and reflect. I had a friend message me recently about something that was occurring in their life. I automatically wanted to fix it. I found myself staring at my phone for a long time. I paused and thought about how I would naturally respond. What is the fix it response? Then I practiced responding while sitting with them in their discomfort. Practice is the key word here people.
Ultimately, we are all on our own journeys. We can't go through someone's emotions for them. We can't fix what's going on in someone else's life. But we can choose to be empathetic and compassionate to those around us. And we can always choose to pause.
In what ways do you practice pausing while communicating with others?