That’s Men: It’s time to stop, pause, and then slow down


About a year ago on a tourist coach in Austria, a fellow passenger became agitated because she thought she had lost her mobile phone.

The venue we had left was large and crowded. Coaches were on a strict schedule to take turns going down the narrow road off the mountain. Her agitation seemed in order. She searched her handbag, then her coat. She stood up. She sat down.

“Stop,” the tour guide commanded. She stopped. “Slow down.” She waited. “Now look for it.”

Slowly she opened her bag, put her hand inside, and took out the mobile phone. “Rushing gets you nowhere,” our Austrian tour guide, who spoke perfect English with an Australian accent, declared as the coach glided off.

I thought of the incident when I read an article by the Wall Street Journal’s work and family correspondent, Sue Shellenbarger.

She noted that architects have begun to include blurred human figures in their drawings for offices to create an impression of energy and busyness.

This appeals to those who confuse rushing with productivity and importance.If you’re a rusher and if you’re in want of a New Year’s resolution because you haven’t had time to make any, here’s a readymade one: Slow down.

Huge drama
Why? First of all, because people who rush about making a huge drama out of everything tend to get other people stressed out as well. Because we evolved to imitate each other, our brains have mirror neurons that help us to do just that.

So when you see somebody rushing about in your workplace, the “rushing about” neurons in your brain light up.

In this way, those who were not stressed can get stressed just by watching the rushers as they clang and clatter about the place.

A second reason to slow down is that those of us who have worked in environments where we got to observe rushers know that they do not achieve an iota more than their slower counterparts.

Lots of noise, lots of lights and lots of beating of drums, but nothing extra to show for it. In fact, rushers can end up achieving less because they haven’t the time to listen to people or to reflect.

A third reason to slow down, if you are a rusher, is that you may be stressing yourself out to impress somebody who is no longer alive.

Was there anybody in your past, possibly your childhood, whose approval you desperately wanted? A parent perhaps? Can you see how ridiculous it is to wear yourself out trying to impress them when they are not even aware of your efforts?

Finally, could you be rushing about because you think this is what people are expected to do when they have very important jobs?

Have you paused long enough to notice those who have very important jobs but who don’t rush at all?

Yes, they probably work longer hours than most of us but they don’t spend the time running around like headless chickens.

If you make a resolution to slow down and be more effective and less annoying, how will you carry it out?

Start by listening to your colleagues and talking to them when they need to talk to you.

Listen more than speak
Try to listen more than you speak. You might be surprised at what you will learn. Every now and then step out of the torrent of busyness by pausing long enough to take an in-breath and an out-breath.

If you need help, ask for it. Scary, I know, but you can be sure that the most powerful people in the world continuously ask themselves who can help them to get what they want. Then they ask.

When you’re in the office, never walk and read texts or emails at the same time. Sit down and have lunch with colleagues most days of the week. Let me spell it out: Sit down. Have lunch. With colleagues.

Finally, slow down long enough to go to rushinggetsyounowhere to read Sue Shellenbarger’s excellent article.

Padraig O’Morain is a counsellor accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

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