There was a time in my life when it seemed like no matter how hard I tried to “fix things,” I was always uncomfortable, irritated and depressed from my interactions with certain people. I was determined to find effective ways to deal with them that didn’t diminish my confidence or energy level.
One day, in the middle of a confrontation, I decided to walk away. It was the most awkward, uncomfortable thing I have ever done. I wanted to argue. I wanted to prove my point, but something inside said walk away. Within a couple of minutes, I felt lighter. I also realized that whether I walked away or stayed to debate, the outcome would have been the same. I would be feeding the toxic person’s need to argue while draining myself. At that moment, I decided I would walk away from people for two weeks to give myself a break from toxic situations.
The most magnificent thing happened. Within those two weeks, I became an observer. I watched other people interact. I listened to their conversations. By not jumping in, reacting and responding all the time, I felt a sense of detachment from the activity around me. Another amazing thing that happened is that I realized I didn’t need to get involved and “fix” everything. It was incredibly liberating.
I also became aware that so many things that used to irritated me, just didn’t annoy me anymore. I started to question myself when something was happening, “Does this really bother me? Do I need to feel angry right now?” The answer was almost always no. I was definitely overreacting and ultra sensitive; I had to grow a thicker skin.
Toxic people don’t have a hold on me. If someone is upset or spewing, I can watch and listen without getting emotionally involved in the interaction. I call it The Pause. That moment when someone is expecting a reaction from you, but you remain still and silent. It doesn’t mean that I am passive. By not responding in the moment, I get stronger, more assertive, and set clear intentions about the outcome I expect.
The Pause changed my life. Walking away made me realize that I don’t always have “to do” something. Sometimes it’s okay just to watch, listen and learn. Then I get to make a decision. Do I want to respond to this? By making it a choice, I am no longer the victim of a situation. The Pause and the choice empower me.
The Pause also diffuses the situation. There isn’t an instant response. There is silence between interactions. For some, silence is awkward. For me, silence is beautiful. It’s breathing room. It’s space where things change and tempers cool. The mind gets a chance to regroup and reflect.
Now, when I am confronted with a toxic person, I am calm and centered. I don’t plummet into negative emotions. The Pause has given my the gift to navigate difficult situations with grace and ease. I am forever grateful.