Whatever happened to the old saying, "silence is golden"? We filter thousands of words each day and studies show only about ten percent of what we hear actually sinks in.
The rest becomes white noise.
In the workplace, there are times when your message needs to be crystal clear.
Maybe it's to give some important instructions, get information to make a decision, or to correct a performance problem.
In these and similar cases, there is no room for 90% of the point to get lost.
On the receiving end of communication (also known as listening), we feel we have to respond to everything.
Why do humans insist on filling the airwaves with more noise and call it communication? Silence is so soothing, peaceful, and necessary.
In communicating at work, there are times when pausing can be more strategic than talking.
I challenge to give the pause a try.
Here are a few situations where it works wonders in increasing the percent of what is retained by your listener.
Stop them in their tracks.
When I was a kid, my dad didn't have to yell or threaten a spanking to get me to settle down.
He simply had to assume the "hairy eyeball" facial expression and not say a word.
The thought of it still gives me shivers.
His intentional pause let me know (ironically, loud and clear) that he meant business.
It's brilliant! Before your next encounter where you could potentially lash out or speak emotionally charged words, put on the face that says, "not now".
You'll buy yourself some time to really think about your words and choose them wisely.
Your message may be so clearly delivered you may not need words at all.
Careful not to break this out too often, however, as it loses its power.
I figured that out by the time I was ten or so.
Appropriately timed and sporadically used, the pause and look can be a very powerful communication tool.
Get 'em talking, and talking, and talking.
The communication process typically follows this pattern: I talk, you talk, I talk again, you talk again, and so on.
The back and forth interaction allows for both parties to get heard, right? Maybe.
What often happens with that verbal tennis match is a lot of talking and not much listening.
We're spending our non-talking time thinking about what we will say next, when the ball is back on our side of the court.
When using the pause tactic, what naturally happens (after an initial moment of awkwardness), is that the other person will keep talking.
Keep pausing, and they'll keep going until you finally chime in.
They'll likely say more than they would have in the back/forth scenario, which gives you additional details and information.
A byproduct perk is that you might actually hear and retain a lot more of what they said.
Avoid "foot in mouth" or "I take it back" consequences.
So many work relationships become strained because of things that were said that shouldn't have been said.
A classic extrovert trait, referred to as "verbal vomit", is the act of just blurting out words before thinking about them first.
They just come out; no filter.
It happens in a heated debate or in friendly, casual conversation.
The word-vomiter is often left feeling regretful, like they stuck their foot in their mouth or they should take back what they said.
As for how it makes the receiver feel...
well no one likes vomit.
The pause tactic, although effective, is not natural and easy to implement.
It requires a conscious decision not to talk.
The best way to develop the habit of pausing more and talking less is to let people know that you're working on your communication skills.
Tell them you are actually trying to communicate with fewer words, not more.
They'll let you know when you blurted out something that was rash and unnecessary, maybe by giving you the "hairy eyeball".