Remember the last time you were in an intense conversation with a colleague or friend? Think about a time when you were moving towards a disagreement and were both trying to understand each other’s perspective and sliding into a heated debate. When did you use silence in that conversation as a communication strategy? How do you integrate a “pause” into that type of dialogue? What is the value of silence and a pause?
Many organization and family conversations move quickly.We all engage in multiple fast moving conversations every day. We zip from one topic to the next. At times, it feels almost impossible to contribute our thoughts and perspectives. In these situations I’m reminded of my younger brother at our family dinner conversations holding up his arm in frustration as if he were in the classroom to cue that he had something to add!
How do we create space for thinking and listening time? How do we slow the conversation down to ask powerful questions? Can we use silence to be more curious about other people’s ideas?
Silence is often seen as a shortcoming. It is judged as not being quick enough, fast enough, well prepared, etc. One of my clients is even fearful of using a pause because if he integrates silence, someone else will take the floor and start talking. How do you navigate that challenge?
If you Google “silence and pause”, most articles reference how to avoid awkward silence in conversations. I invite you to reframe silence. Instead of awkward, think about silence and pause as extremely powerful communication tools of inquiry, reflection, curiosity, and influence.
A few tips for using silence and pause.
- Take a big breath. A breath will help you think better and will cue your listeners that you are still engaged and in mid sentence or thought.
- Ask a powerful question and then pause. Consider asking a question that refocuses the conversation to what matters most. For example, “Can we just pause a moment and think back to what was the ultimate goal of our conversation?”
- Turn to the person who is speaking and say, “I’m really curious about what you just said, can we back up a minute. Can you repeat what you just said? I think you just made an interesting insight that deserves more discussion.”
- Before you make an important point, lower the volume of your and slow your pace. Guide people into listening more carefully. Then pause, take a breath and return to normal voice patterns to truly land your point.
Consider how and when you could use silence and a pause? How can you enhance your communication skills through the integration of quiet reflection, powerful questions, and increased time to process and think? Use silence to make your point, learn from others, and give yourself permission to be thoughtful and clear when expressing your ideas.