Have you ever …

stuck your foot in your mouth?

wished you could go back and say it differently?

confused someone with what you said?

filled space without adding value?

overwhelmed someone with information?

Our brains process speech in 600 milliseconds. Wow! That’s fast. It’s so fast that it makes it incredibly easy for you to respond lightning quick. It also makes it easy to say the wrong thing or cause people to mentally disconnect.

There is a simple fix. The pause.

Embrace the pause so you can think

  • Take a breath
  • Consider the context of the conversation – yours and theirs (mood, environment, tone, relationship, topic, time of day, workload, etc.)
  • Ask a clarifying question if needed
  • Formulate a response in your brain
  • Speak

Embrace the pause so others can think

Although our brains process speech quickly, there are situations when the brain needs more time to process information. When we use the pause and give others time to ponder, they can:

  • identify how the information fits or doesn’t fit what they know, which promotes reciprocal communication.
  • ask meaningful questions to promote clarity and understanding.
  • offer other perspectives that move communication forward instead of challenging what you say.
  • connect information to their own experiences, which creates a deeper understanding and a desire to listen more.

But don’t pause too long either. Leaving too much silence can leave too much room for someone to check out.

So … [pause for dramatic effect] what will you do today to practice the art of the pause?