As we are becoming more and more dependent on the instant gratification of checking with Google (or Siri, or Alexa), I wonder if our own impatience can be causing harm. Raise your hand if you’ve recently found yourself doing any of the following:
- Interrupting someone
- Monopolizing the conversation
- Providing unsolicited advice
- Abruptly changing the subject
Who me? Absolutely. And frequently. I can say for sure that it’s never my intention to cause harm. After all, I am supposedly an expert in communication. Therefore, what I have to say is really important, right?
Instead, I’m teaching myself to take a breath and slow down. Whether I’m facilitating a conversation during a mediation or talking to my doctor, I want to make sure that I’m not getting in my own way. For me (and believe me, this is a challenge), it means slowing down and using less words.
Sometimes the slow down leads to silence, and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, silence can be powerful, as long as we understand its power. Easier said than done, because we’ve been conditioned to feel uncomfortable with silence. Our silence might be perceived as disinterest or worse, a passive-aggressive punishment, and therefore we must use it wisely.
Slowing down, on the other hand, doesn’t typically lend itself to misinterpretation when we’re having an important conversation. To me, it’s a form of respect for the other participant(s). I often choose to slow down by asking several open-ended questions, which is almost never a bad idea. If I perceive that I’m dealing with a quiet or reluctant party, which occurs frequently in my mediation practice, a simple “tell me more” can open the door to an underlying issue.
It doesn’t take a doctorate in psychology to understand that slowing down can also reduce stress and anxiety. What I find particularly interesting is that when I slow down, my focus increases. If my to-do list is long, I tend to rush through the items in order to cross them off. While I might feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, I’ve also lost some of the joy. Writing this blog is a perfect example. On the one hand, I’m anxious to get it done. On the other hand, I absolutely love to research and write each week, and slowing down to actually enjoy the process always leaves me feeling happier and more fulfilled.
Those of us who are somewhat compulsive about being punctual (who, me?) find it impossible to slow down. “It’s a green light, grandpa” is something I’ve caught myself shouting in the privacy of my car. If I leave my house five minutes earlier, I could slow down my impatient driver personality and actually breathe. I could also choose an alternate route that might take a few minutes longer, but will afford me better scenery along the way.
Does this make any sense? What steps do you choose to take in order to slow down?