You have permission to pause

Photo credit: AOP Photography

Photo credit: AOP Photography


There’s something about feeling like we’ve got to say something witty, quick, and sharp (like, now) that lowers our ability to give consideration to the impact of our words.

Here’s a simple tool that I’ve found to be really helpful when I feel pressured to speak without giving myself an opportunity to catch my breath in a difficult conversation. It’s a 3 word question: And then what?

What happens next if I say this?

How will I impact our relationship if I choose to say this?

Am I willing to stay in the conversation if I’m responded to in the same way I’m about to speak?

There are times when immediate response is appropriate and imperative. But there are many, many moments where pausing to give ourselves space to breathe, think, connect, and then make a conscious choice can be the difference between a conversation about race that increases mutual understanding and dignity, and a conversation about race that leads to increased confusion and division.

When we pause, we build in space to listen. And as we begin to listen, we begin to relate as we understand realities we might have otherwise missed.