Here’s a situation that might be familiar to many of you.
You’re engrossed in a television show when suddenly your partner enters the room and starts talking to you. Maybe they’re asking a simple question, or perhaps they want to let you know about something that just happened to them. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, it isn’t that they’re being rude; it’s simply that what they have to say is important to them, and likely time-sensitive.
As Dennis Hopper in “Speed” would ask: “What do you do?”
Well, you could decide to become annoyed at your partner for interrupting. Or you could attempt to maintain focus on both the show and your partner which, unfortunately, results in missing details of both.
Or…you could hit the pause button on the DVR—the 21st century’s answer to how to stop time.
Now, you can shift your entire focus to your partner without sacrificing a single moment of your program: neither is ignored. The annoyance is eliminated and your spouse feels heard.
So it occurred to me that we could all benefit in our relationships if we learned how to hit the pause button on our internal process. Let me explain.
Sometimes, our mates start to tell us something, and it triggers a whole set of feelings inside: hurt, fear, confusion, defensiveness, etc. I don’t mean after they’re done speaking—I’m talking about while they’re speaking. You’ve heard just enough words to start worrying about how what you’re hearing could affect your life. Are you being asked to do something you don’t want to do? Are you scared you can’t possibly meet your partner’s expectations? Perhaps you’ve heard just enough words to believe you’re being criticized or judged.
The point is this: because you’re indulging in your internal process, you are not fully listening to what is actually being said. So what if, instead, you could hit the “pause button” on your internal process. By no means am I advocating that you ignore it. Rather, I’m encouraging you to hit “pause” and just listen. Reflect back to your partner what they’ve said—they will feel totally heard, and your relationship will instantly improve.
Then you can begin to process your own feelings and reactions, with a high degree of likelihood that your partner will be open and willing to hear them.
This strategy would also be quite useful for anger management. It’s well established that beneath anger there is usually a secondary emotion, like fear or sadness. Well suppose that when you began to experience feelings of intense anger, you hit the pause button?
With your anger frozen in time, you could seize the opportunity to go deeper and ask yourself what’s really being touched upon. With more clarity, perhaps the angry feelings can dissipate; maybe now you’ll refrain from the hurtful attack you were about to levy.
So the next time you become aware that you’re not fully engaged in what your partner is saying, access your internal DVR remote, and hit PAUSE.
Now, if only we could figure out how to hit RECORD and prove that our partners actually said what we KNOW they said.