How many times have you heard someone say, “Think before you speak!” Many mothers handed out this sage advice as we were growing up!
How many times would a pause before you speak have changed the outcome of a conversation, a situation or even a relationship? Have you ever blurted out something while you were in a bad mood and regretted it later? The tendency to speak without thinking comes out in many ways –sarcasm, correcting, putdowns, one-upping, or just unnecessary or mean statements. It often happens when you’re in a reactive state of mind, often when stressed, tired, overwhelmed, or frustrated. When you have any doubt if you should say something, ask yourself if the comment will add to the conversation and if it will enhance or harm the relationship.
This strategy is short and sweet. Your mind is very quick so don’t worry that you will look like you’ve nodded off in the conversation! However, don’t pause so long that you come off indecisive, confused or lost. A pause lets you “get” what the person has said and lets you think about your words before they come rushing out. It’s often a signal to the other person that you heard what they said and are thinking about it. A pause also helps you not jump in and start talking before the person has completed what they want to say. Or it can be a way to transition to another topic, to help people clear their mind and focus. Many public speaking tips include a pause as a way to get the audience’s attention and to add impact to something you just said. This is true in any conversation as well!
Pauses can be used in other ways to impress people and dial up your leadership presence. When a successful person enters a room, you know it. When entering a room for a meeting, don’t sneak in and out of the room. A pause non- verbally announces your presence. It can be more courteous than rushing in to someone else’s meeting or presentation. A pause gives you a chance to size up the situation, gives you the opportunity to look others in the eye and get what’s going on with them, rather than just focusing on yourself.
So, leaders, my challenge for you this week is to take time to pause. People won’t wonder what you’re doing. They will think there’s something that sets you apart from others, an aura of confidence AND they will pay attention, follow your lead. Try it on.