The “Give-Yourself-A-Pause” Phrase

I work with lots of folks on how to take good care of themselves…how to listen to their own needs and set boundaries that work for them. One challenge that comes up a lot is that, in social situations, conversation can move so quickly that it becomes really hard to be able to:

  1. Pause.
  2. Sense your reaction to the request or situation.
  3. Come up with a skillful way to respond or set a boundary.

But being able to do all 3 of these things is central to respecting yourself and your needs.

There’s nothing wrong with, for instance–saying “yes” to going to a party this weekend and then, after reflection letting the person know that you’re actually beat from the holidays and need a quiet weekend at home. But retracting a “yes” is often uncomfortable for people.

So here’s a little tool for your toolbox to help create a little more space in conversation when you’re asked for something and don’t want to say “yes” (or “no” for that matter) prematurely. Let’s call it the Give-Yourself-A-Pause Phrase.

“That sounds really nice!…I’ve got to check my calendar first…can I let you know later today or tomorrow?”

“Wow…I’d really like to be able to do that. I need to think about it a bit first. Can I let you know in a day or two/hour or two?

“Hmm…interesting. That’s cool. I really want to ponder that one before I make a decision. Can I let you know soon?”

“Thanks for thinking of me. Let me think about what I’ve got going on for a bit and I’ll get right back to you.”

These are cheerful and positive. It’s also a-ok to say, “You know, I’m kinda overwhelmed at the moment…can I let you know in a bit?” or “It’s been a hard day…I think I’ve got to think about it and let you know.”

These can work when you’re:

  1. Asked on a date.
  2. Asked to join a committee.
  3. Asked out for drinks after work.
  4. Asked to travel somewhere for the holidays.

What do you think? Are there some other phrases that have worked well for you?