Pause, think and choose

From Ethen Gillespie


Pause, think and choose are three actions that can prevent or reduce many problems in marriage and other relationships.

Many people have spoken in anger or out of frustration without taking time to consider consequences. Things done or said within the span of a few seconds may take weeks, months or years to correct, or they may never be corrected.

In the Eight Habits of a Successful Marriage, Dr. John M.R. Covey teaches the importance of being proactive in our behavior. He defines this as the habit of choice. According to Dr Covey, being proactive means that a person identifies the things that can be controlled in life and also the things that cannot be controlled. We can control our thoughts, how we feel, how we act and what we do. We cannot control another’s thoughts or action. We should focus our energy and efforts only on the things that we can control. Don’t sweat the small stuff or things that are completely out of your control. Spending time and energy thinking about things that we cannot control will leave us feeling angry, frustrated, worried, helpless and out of control.

Dr. Covey demonstrates the difference between proactive behavior and reactive behavior with a bottle of soda and a bottle of water. He holds up the two bottles and shakes both of them vigorously while telling a story about two people driving down the interstate when a motorist crosses into their lane, cutting them off and forcing them to slam on their brakes to avoid a crash. One of the drivers reacts like the bottle of shaken soda and is ready to explode with curses or a fight. This is reactive behavior. The other driver, like the bottle of water, had the exact same experience but is calm and pauses before he acts. He takes time to think about his response and the consequences of his actions.

If you are reactive, you act as if you have only one choice and immediately respond to what is happening. In marriage, a reactive person responds without thinking and does not consider the consequences or impact the actions might have on the relationship.

Ask yourself these questions to guide future behaviors: How will I feel about my words and or actions when I look back on them? Will my behavior best represent the person that I want to be or believe that I am? Will my behavior be consistent with my values? Will I be sorry for my action and have to apologize? How will my behavior affect the people I care most about?

To learn more contact Ethen Gillespie at the Building Strong Families office at 662-769-1723.