Practice the Pause: 4 Tips to Become More Mindful and Have Less Conflict

Posted by Evie Shafner, LMFT on December 23, 2019 at 10:59 AM
Evie Shafner, LMFT

3 minute read

Practice the Pause - Imago Relationships North America

Pause before judging.

Pause before assuming. 

Pause before accusing.

Pause whenever you’re about to react harshly.

Pause before criticizing.

Pause before shaming. Pause before blaming. 

If you can practice the pause to stay more mindful when you are feeling triggered and reactive, you’ll avoid saying or doing something you’ll most certainly regret later. 

If you can practice the pause, you'll also spare you and your partner from relationship struggles. Or, worse rupturing your relationship beyond repair.  

Being mindful is a wonderful goal to stay more present and enjoy life to the fullest! Isn't that something we all want to accomplish?  Yet, how many of us “act badly” and feel terrible later? 

Sometimes, when we’re triggered by our partner, we go into that flipped lid place where we start spilling out all of our resentments. Feeling reactive, our partner begins to meet us in that exact same spot and responds the same way. 

Want to know what’s going on in both our brains? We are momentarily grabbed by the emotional centers of the brain, and the area of the brain that can help us calm down and speak in a kinder, and calmer way.  That area of our brain is temporarily offline and unavailable. 

So, are we out of hope? Are we simply victims of our body’s protective fight or flight biology?

The answer is - there’s always hope. In fact, focusing on observing what we are thinking and feeling, without judgment and with compassion gives us that hope. This is called mindfulness.  And, mindfulness might be exactly what we need to transform our relationships into healthy relationships, happy relationships, and connected relationships

Here’s how you Practice the Pause and become mindful in the Moment:  

Step One: 

  • Create the intention to become the observer of yourself. It’s about becoming very purposeful in noticing what’s happening inside of you. Becoming the observer, catching that nano-second before we respond allows us to experience a choice.

  • We don’t have to choose a bumpy ride on that run-a-way train of reactivity that turns our relationship into a train wreck. 

Step Two: 

  • When you notice your lid is about to flip and you are beyond triggered, you can make that nanosecond decision to choose an action that leads to connection and repair. 

  • This might mean self-soothing statements, taking some breaths, taking a break before speaking. Or, it could mean talking in a calm voice without criticism.

  • Yes, it’s compelling to feel like your right, and launch in - but wouldn’t you rather be in a healthy and connected relationship than be “right “ in a moment? 

Step Three:

  • By simply taking the time needed to begin to notice our thoughts and feelings, we put ourselves into the driver’s seat and avoid the runaway train.

  • We can simply watch our thoughts and feelings like a passing train, but we don’t have to get on board.  

  • Doing this consistently, we begin to strengthen our feeling of agency, that we do in fact have a choice.  We can actually feel solid like a mountain while the enormous wave of feelings washes over us.

Step Four:

  • Wait to speak till you reach this point.  Sometimes, after this practice, which calms and centers us, you might not even need to speak because you have actually soothed yourself. 

  • Focusing, practicing and working on pausing will help you most in the end. 

  • You’ll learn to cultivate much more inner peace, and even more importantly you’ll be more effective in no longer hurting the one person you love the most.  

Mindfulness is a wonderful tool, so feel free to check out some of the books we’ve suggested on the topic. It’s easy to practice and just might save your relationship. 

If you need help managing conflict, practicing mindfulness and pausing in your personal or professional life, we’re here to help. Check out our Imago Relationship workshops and therapy.   

Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional MembershipImago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training and Imago Educational Webinars


Evie_Shafner_LMFTThis blog post was written by Evie Shafner, LMFT.
With a degree in clinical psychology in hand, Evie started private practice in 1979, as a licensed MFT. She was one of the founders of the Los Angeles Women’s Therapy Center, where she worked for over 20 years.
Evie began training in Imago Relationship Therapy in the 90’s, getting certified in 1994. Evie then went on to become an advanced clinician in Imago, a workshop presenter, and has served on the Board of Imago Relational International for the last 6 years.


Topics: Healthy Relationships, Resolve Conflict, Emotional Safety, Self Care, Stress Relief, Healthy Connection, Healthy Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Imago Relationships, Emotional Connection, Adulting, Online Couples Workshop, Getting the Love you Want

About the blog

52 tips for self-care and personal growth from Imago Relationship experts on breaking bad habits, what to do when you are in a crisis, how to move on after a bad breakup and healing relationships.

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