It’s the last week of a wild, unprecedented, crazy, depressing, hopeful, heartbreaking, strange, and (add your favorite pandemic adjective here) year. No breaking news there. But most importantly, for many of us, it was the year of learning the power of the pause.

The word “pause” has been used a lot to describe how we’ve been able to slow down life a bit. It’s been an unexpected benefit of a global pandemic, unless you are an essential worker. To those of you who have been busier than ever trying to keep us healthy and safe, I truly thank you!

We are learning how to better communicate by using new tech skills, and how a virtual pause can help us listen better (and so we don’t talk over each other).

I want to talk more about the power of using the pause in your daily communication – virtual or real. Masks or not. Using a pause at a more micro-level can be one of the best communication skills you can master.

The Odds Are Against Us

The amount of time that people are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful while listening is 75% (Hunsacker).

That means you only have about a 25% chance of getting heard.

Take the example of the person who interrupts, seems distracted, or demonstrates in other ways that they aren’t listening to you. That lack of listening can lead to misunderstandings and mistakes. You may be communicating the right things in the right way, but if you haven’t gotten your message across you may as well have not communicated at all, right?

So how do you encourage others to listen to you? The best way to start is by modeling your own good listening skills. Intentionally slowing your listening down – or pausing – can be one of the best and simplest ways to do that.  

A pause gives you a chance to think and digest the situation – and the other person’s words or behaviors – before responding. It will help you think first before speaking, and it will build trust and rapport which will help you get your message through to others.

The power of Pause Formula:

Slow + Down + Listen = PAUSE

5 tips to Help You Master the Power of the Pause

1. Instead of immediately responding say, “Tell me more.”

2. Listen as if what you are hearing is going to change your life.

3. Show you are listening by using positive body language. Lean in, nod your head, and make good eye contact. Smile and mean it. People will know the difference.

4. Reinforce open communication by showing appreciation for the information, the advice, or the direction. Say “thank you.”

5. Don’t be afraid of the silence. We listen faster than we talk and have a natural desire to rush in to fill gaps – or finish sentences. Resist the urge and just be patient and continue the pause. Breathe and wait until you’ve had time to think before you speak.

Pause On

By choosing to use the power of the pause, you’ll see a remarkable difference in how you connect with others and how they, in turn, respond to you.

Betty Lochner
 is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She offers several online courses to help individuals and teams communicate better. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.

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