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The Power of the Pause

Last week, I received an email from the administrator of a course I had just registered for. The email stated that they had offered me the wrong discount and that I needed to pay an extra $300 to make up the difference.

Well. I. Was. Livid.

How dare they lure me in with a bait and switch! Their administrative error wasn’t my problem. I signed up at a particular rate, and that was all I was willing to pay. I fired back a strongly worded email saying so.

The thing is though, it wasn’t a bait and switch. They intended to charge me the exact amount I agreed to. Their system simply billed me the wrong amount. I discovered this fact about thirty minutes after I sent my reply, having checked my credit card statement in a fit of indignation.

Well. I. Felt. Stupid.

And here’s what made it worse. As I was composing my fiery response, there was a little voice in my head telling me to leave it until a moment when I was less activated, less reactive, and as it turned out, less stupid. I ignored that voice.

And here's what made it even worse still. The course was about "The Power of Presence" in coaching.


For whatever reason, I was emotionally hooked. And because of that I forgot about not only the power of presence, but also The Power of the Pause.

We all get hooked from time to time. Perhaps someone hits one of your secret insecurities, causing the spectre of unworthiness to haunt your brain. Or they remind you a little too much of a parent, sibling, or grade school bully. Or maybe past experience has led you to read a situation in a particular (negative) way. Sometimes, as I believe happened to me last week, you’re just tired at the end of a long day and you read an email incorrectly.

All too often when we're hooked, we lash out seeking to alleviate the pain and discomfort of the moment. The problem is our quick, unthinking, emotional response only makes things worse.

So, the next time you feel hooked, remember the power of the pause. Take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the ground. And ask yourself – Do I need to respond right now? Or can this wait until I’m in a calmer, more centered place?

Of course, it can wait. Never ever react in the moment if even a 10 second pause is possible.

But if you do (we all do sometimes), and find you’ve made a big ol’ mess of things, be sure to apologize immediately and profusely, as I assure you, I did last week.

Ugh. I still feel a bit stupid though. Lesson learned (until next time, that is…).

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