A friend recently said to us, “I am learning to have fewer reactive conversations and more healthy conversations.”   What simple advice!   The question arises, when you go reactive; how do you shift to a more creative and healthy conversation?

We recommend hitting the pause button to lengthen the choice-point between when you might get triggered and your response.  A pause, for even a few seconds, reduces your need to respond to the drama of the moment.  Pausing builds your capacity to handle the fear and reactivity that arise before you get triggered and take on the roles of the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) of Victim, Persecutor or Rescuer.  Each of these roles sparks reactive and drama-filled conversations.

Donna recently had an opportunity to practice hitting the pause button.  After a long day of travel, David was ready to go to bed and Donna wanted to talk.

David said:  “I am really tired, honey, and would like to go to bed now.”

Donna wanted to share a story that had happened earlier in the day.  When David said he wanted to go to bed, she felt a knot in her gut and heard a whisper:  “He doesn’t want to listen.  Maybe he doesn’t value me.”

When Donna hit the pause button, she was able to create new potential responses toward David’s desire to go to bed: (1) “I can say good night and share the story in the morning” (2) “I can laugh at how ridiculous it sounds that David doesn’t value me” and (3) “his fatigue has nothing to do with me.”

Once Donna paused, she had the freedom to choose rather than force a reactive conversation.

American psychologist Rollo May said:  “Freedom is in the capacity to pause between stimulus and response.”     After pausing, Donna did not feel victimized or persecuted by David’s desire to go to bed.  What freedom!

Pausing builds your capacity to handle fear and reactivity that may arise.  In the space that holds the pause, you can redirect your focus toward what you want rather than focusing on problems and what you don’t want.  Without pausing, it is almost impossible to shift yourself out of the DDT toward a more resourceful way of living.  The human compulsion to react will almost certainly hijack your best intentions.

The rapid and stressful pace of life today is taking a toll on our health and relationships and is a big source of unhealthy conversations.  Learning to pause, for just a moment, is one of the easiest and most profound new habits you can build into your life.

A pause can simply be taking a few moments to be aware of your breathing; putting your phone down and closing your eyes; or taking the stairs rather than the elevator to the next meeting.  It may mean giving yourself approval to sleep on a difficult email you need to write, rather than immediately responding.

Your intention is the key here; if you are intentionally redirecting your focus to a moment of rest, your brain and nervous system are given time to calm and renew.   As a Creator, when it is time to refocus again on the task at hand, you will be able to direct your attention toward what you actually want to create and avoid the trap of reactivity.

By hitting the pause button, powerful new options arise that support the shift from the DDT to TED*.   Instead of reacting, you have a greater capacity to initiate and participate in more creative and healthy conversation.