Is there anything more powerful than an explosion of emotion in the human heart? From the elation of love’s first quickening to the fury of being cut off on the highway, the fever of the chemical combustion of our emotions gives us the urge to sing out loud to strangers or drive up next to the offending car and paint a picture complete with hand gestures.
But, what would the world be like if every emotion included a 10 minute absorption period? How many things have you done in the heat of the moment that if you had just time to consider your reaction consciously, you would have made a different choice? What if you decided today to give yourself the grace and the gift of an emotional pause button? How much peace could come into your life with just a little more space between emotion and reaction? What if you could just hold your tongue, your pen, your email, your hand gestures for just ten minutes?
What if you knew when not to speak?
Think about it, the time you need to pause is related to the intensity of your emotion. It’s a delicate balance of not making mountains out of molehills and not pretending that a molehill isn’t a mountain! The only way to know what you are feeling is to feel it. And that takes time and space. Time for yourself and space away from the situation. A slight from a friend or coworker may just take a few minutes or an hour to digest and move through. But a betrayal by a spouse or loved one may take a few days or longer before you know how you really feel and what you really want.
You always have a right to ask for more time to process your feelings. This can be hard especially if someone else wants resolution. You don’t have to rush your process to accommodate someone else’s pleas for forgiveness. If you do, you’ll only end up in resentment later. So, take the time you need and know that it is the more loving choice. Respect the process of emotion.
The real you
Speak from your truth, not the truth of your reaction. No one in the world lives a life where every word and every action they take has complete integrity with who they are. The great boss you’ve loved working for can have a bad day and take it out on you. The friend who is always there can forget to call you back. Just because someone doesn’t treat you the way they should have, or in a most ideal way, doesn’t invalidate your history with them and what you know to be true of their relationship with you.
So, if you are treated in an unkind or callous way by someone you care about, take time to digest what has occurred. If you decide to approach this person, keep in the forefront of your mind your truth about the relationship, not the incident. So, the friend that is with you through thick and thin, but spaced on calling you back can be asked with love about what is going on in their life. Maybe they have a lot on their plate and need your ear. And yes, you can mention that you didn’t get a call back when you needed it, but not because you are putting the entire friendship at stake because you are angry, but because you treasure the friendship and honesty is a part of that.
The best time to speak is when you can stop scripting both sides of the conversation. Once you’ve allowed yourself the time to feel and understand your reaction, and it’s time to talk, you must be willing to be surprised by the results. So many times we think we know what someone is going to say to our request for more love, more understanding or more courtesy. We script out our lines and their lines too! But the truth has a way of making its own outcome. You have to be willing to step out with your truth and see what the result is. You must be willing to listen. You must be willing to be wrong. Bring your truth to the table and let yourself be open to their truth, too.
Speak face to face
One of the biggest downsides of email, texting and all forms of non-verbal communication is the inability to relay tone. How many times have you read an email that seems completely rude only to find that it’s really just informative? How many times have you regretted having your opinions out there forever in someone’s inbox?
Commit to having conversations about important things as actual, human, face to face conversations. Your emotions will show themselves and your communication will be whole. You are two people – not two keyboards. We speak to each other out of love and with love. Email is great for so many things, but it’s not built to communicate simultaneously that you love someone but you need to air your feelings.
Practicing the pause in the midst of things that feel immediate takes time and practice. But by committing yourself to respecting your own needs, you’ll find that very few things are as immediate as they feel. Very few interactions demand immediate resolution. Restraint of pen and tongue will go a long way to preserving relationships in your personal life and in your workplace. Take your time, speak from love and your truth will always set you free.
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