PRESENCE and PAUSING – 2 powerful ways to be, that will improve your relationships.
Presence and Pausing. Being present to the other is offering all of your focus to the other person and letting them know you are there for them in this moment with care and kindness. When you are present to the other, your only job is to listen with care and empathy and try to understand our life is for them. At this time, you don’t need to give any advice or tell your story. You are just being present to the other person; one human being sitting with another human being.
When I counsel couples, www.hopeandpossibility.com.au one of the first things I do is help them be present to each other and listen, really listen and hear and understand and see what is going on from their partner’s point of view. I am always pleasantly surprised when often just that much is enough to get to the “underneath”, to the parts that really matter, the thoughts and especially the feelings and sensations of the person in the situation or issue. What is it about us in this situation and what is it about the other in this situation? What is the most helpful thing to do? It is often enough to listen and try to understand. And while we are doing this, the other person is also listening to himself or herself and hopefully getting to what is underneath. In general, whenever we are undone in life (in counselling we call it “triggered”) something is being touched and that is the something we need to attend to and settle.
For example a husband might say: ‘I hate being told what to do and the minute I get home from work you tell me to do this and that and the other thing and nag me and I hate that’. It would be quite common and normal for the wife to react by saying something like, ‘I’m not nagging, you have got no idea, I am home alone all day with our children and it’s hard and you can’t just get home on time and help me. They are your children too you know”. It is quite likely, that the whole discussion/argument would escalate and not end well.
However, if one or other or both of them could pause and just bear witness to the other the whole conversation and connection could go much better.
For example: What if the wife paused and said something like, ‘Oh so when you get home you feel like you are just being told what to do and being nagged“. It is likely the husband would say “yes that is right”, and then the wife could say something like “so there is something about being asked to do things when you get home that gets to you, what is that?” If the husband can pause and look underneath he might say: “My mother was always telling me what to do and I hated that”. (The phrase “something about” is a great way to get someone else to pause and reflect and look inside or internally refer)
When the husband pauses and reflects, in this example, he reveals to himself that his reaction is about something from his past. He doesn’t just think: “oh my wife wants help with our family’, he is triggered to a past memory and has a reaction any time his wife asks him to do things. If you like it is his automatic reaction out of his awareness. If his wife can just stay where he is at and not react with her own stuff at least not in that moment then this exchange will be much more fruitful.
Hopefully the revelation comes that his wife is not his mother and now we are all reminded of that and also he now knows he has a reaction to being asked what to do because of his past history. Now with awareness a choice can be made the next time he is asked to do something. He may still have a reaction, however if he chooses to Pause, he can then say something like: “I am sensing something in me that is reacting to be asked to do something, I know this has something to do with my mother. My wife is not my mother, she just wants help with our kids”. He could then use a settling technique and get on with what needs to be done.
So, if we look at the wife’s reaction, the husband also gets a chance to stay present and really listen and hear and understand what this wife is saying. When she says: “You have got no idea, I am home alone all day with our children and it’s hard and you never get home on time and help me. They are your children too you know”. In this example if the husband could pause be present to his wife and really listen, hear and understand her and he might reply with “I know you just want me to get home earlier to help with our children because it is hard doing this on your own”. So this ability to pause and be able to see the other’s point of view is enormously helpful. In addition, it is good to pause and try to get to what is underneath our initial reaction. Even if we can’t do this in the moment, when we may be in reaction, we can do it later. The real trick or habit to get into is to PAUSE.
If you want to make pausing even more powerful then you can do the following:
BE AWARE of ME, YOU, US, and LISTEN and CONNECT.
- To Pause (for example: take 3 big belly breaths, Count to 10, say “step back, clear head, calm body, breathe and ease)
- How is it for me?
- How is for the other person?
- How can I best communicate my needs and wants?
- How can I best listen to the other?
These questions can also be used in the classroom. They may even be able to use them in other parts of their lives.
We can all be reactive and get caught in “YOUING” the other, for example, “you don’t care, you never help, you are always late, you nag all the time, you don’t understand” or even worse than this. If we take the time to pause and really be present and listen, that focus can change and open up a larger conversation about what is really happening.
Working as a counsellor, it has been a revelation to realise that pausing and getting to the “underneath” for each person is amazingly powerful. When couples do this, for example, there is often a new understanding and more compassion and tenderness for each other. Before I meet with every client I remind myself to be present as one human being with another human being. In my own life, I intentionally remind myself to Pause. I am not always successful and like anyone else I can be reactive instead of responsive.
If this is how the best therapeutic relationships work, it makes sense the best everyday relationships would work the same way. And it can certainly be applied in the classoom and in school life more generally. Be kind to each other, listen, try to understand, be genuine and show ourselves and the other person respect, affection and love.