We live in an age of ever-increasing chatter. The never-ending stream of messages, alerts, reminders, and emails means our minds rarely settle during the workday. In this context, it’s easy to rush as we ask questions and deliver answers in our meetings. We think we can’t pause for a second or two, because if we do:
- Someone might hijack the thread of our discussion, leaving issues unaddressed.
- We’ll be viewed as less credible or knowledgeable.
- We’ll lose out on the opportunity to add value or influence others.
What happens in collaborative thinking when we don’t permit ourselves to pause?
Simply put, it deteriorates quickly! Here’s what we see most commonly:
- Instead of asking one great question at a time, we mush two or three together.
- We ask vague questions that our colleagues can’t follow.
- We ramble, prompting others to tune out or interrupt.
- We trade off brief meetings that move work forward quickly for longer meetings that get bogged down.
How do we change this situation?
Rush a little less, pause a little more.
There is power in pausing a second or two before we speak or answer an important message. Pausing ensures our communication will be more clear, precise, and credible. The trick with pausing is to realize that while a one- or two-second pause may feel awkwardly long to you, it doesn’t to your audience. In fact, when we ask people to practice pausing in our workshops, many comment that slowing down a touch feels good. It allows them to engage more deeply. It allows them to think things through. After all, the highest quality discussion depends on taking the time to listen mindfully and respond thoughtfully to what is said.
What to Practice Now
- Texts or email messages are perfect venues to practice pausing, because the perceived pressure to respond immediately is lessened. When you find yourself rushing through Q+A in a text or email, stop. Take a deep breath, and call to mind the power of mindful communication. Re-read the message, and take a moment to think. Then answer.
- In your next 1:1 meeting, let your manager know that you’re trying to pause slightly before answering questions that require deeper thought. Then, in your next several one-on-one meetings, pause when it feels necessary. Reflect on your results after each meeting. Experiment with different pause times until you find a rhythm that allows you to communicate at your best. When you’ve found the pace that feels optimal, seek feedback about how it’s working for your manager.
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