Last week when I was working with an executive, I was reminded of the importance of using the 'pause.' This executive was not alone, for in my experience I find that about 1 person in 100 is conscious of how to effectively use the pause as a skill, and most don't have a clue as to whether they use a pause or not. Too bad, as the Power of the Pause is one of the biggest take aways in our Decker Method™ program.
Here's what you can do:
First, find out if you pause. Get a digital audio recorder, and record yourself daily when you are in control of the communication - leaving a phone message, running a meeting, or making a presentation or speech. You'll learn a lot:
- You probably have 'non-words.' Non-words are just pause fillers, and extend beyond the typical “um” and “uh” to “you knows,” “ands,” “okays,” “right” and the like. All anyone has to do is practice leaving pauses of two or three seconds after each sentence. In doing this you will at first feel the pauses are excruciatingly long. We find people saying that a three second pause feels like thirty seconds. But it feels like a normal pause when you play it back on audio.
- The pauses you leave are probably less than half a second. Practice extending them, and then see how they sound on playback.
We have found that there are five great benefits of learning to use the pause as a conscious skill:
- Getting rid of the distracting non-words.
- Allows you time to think of what to say next. (I personally find this the most valuable 'power of the pause.'
- Relieves tension, by allowing you to breathe.
- Reference your notes.
All of the above is when you are in control of the communications. There are other insights for pausing, or NOT pausing, when there is a dialogue, when people can interrupt, when you are in a conference call, and particularly when you are in a selling situation and want to use the pause to listen and draw out. But that's for another time.
Practice pausing. It has great power in both informal and formal speaking.