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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bowers

The Art and Power of the Pause

We live in an era of continuous connection. The dings of instant messaging, social media and our inboxes have led us down a path of Pavlovian communication — we’re compelled to respond instantly when our phones or computers send an alert.

In this digital age, the art of pausing before responding seems to have lost its place of importance. Too often, we're compelled to react quickly, whether in conversations, emails, or online debates. The value of pausing to gather our thoughts has deteriorated our opportunities for effective communication, meaningful dialogue, and informed decision-making.

Unsurprisingly, our desire to fire back is not exclusive to virtual communication. Both the expectation to receive and the compulsion to provide instantaneous responses are influencing our in-person interactions as well - and not always in a positive manner.

The power of pausing can positively impact our emotions, relationships, leadership presence, and ability to empathize with others. This requires leaders to create the time, space and place for more mindful and productive interactions and responses with the peers, employees, and clients.

Resist the Rush to Respond

The rush to respond can lead to hasty decisions and, in many cases, regrettable outcomes or poor choices. Pausing allows us to consider alternatives and gather information for better conversations and decision-making. Allowing ourselves more time to think about the words we choose and how they may affect others helps prevent misunderstandings and conflicts that can arise from impulsive responses.

Perhaps most importantly, a brief pause also helps us manage our emotions. It provides an opportunity to respond calmly and rationally and prevents us from saying things we might later regret. Additionally, taking a moment to consider another person's perspective before responding often leads to more empathetic and understanding interactions. Sleeping on a big issue prior to responding almost always creates a better outcome in communications.

Apply Active Listening

Traditionally, active listening focused on reading other’s body language and facial expressions during in-person connections. The virtual world minimizes our ability to detect these visual cues and fully grasp another’s reaction and intent. Today’s active listening toolbox includes additional skills in reflective response and asking insightful questions. Summarizing or paraphrasing key points allows for deeper comprehension of the conversation, can clarify understanding, and confirms that the message is accurately interpreted. This demonstrates to the speaker that his or her message is not only received but also valued, which builds trust and stronger relationships.

Strengthen Leadership Effectiveness

Leaders who pause before responding are perceived as more thoughtful and competent and can inspire confidence in their teams. Mastering the power of the pause improves negotiation skills and the ability to influence positive change. Tempering an immediate reaction positions leaders to respond in a manner that is aligned with long-term goals rather than short-term emotions. A well-timed pause also conveys confidence and control, which subtly influences organizational dynamics. It can prompt others to reveal more information or reconsider their stance, potentially leading to more favorable outcomes. For leaders, mastering the art of pausing is a nuanced yet impactful way to shape and influence teams.

Harness the Power of Pausing

Developing the skill to pause before responding isn't easy. We face challenges such as time pressure, emotional reactivity, and instant gratification in our daily and strategic communications. Here are some quick tips to help you harness the power of pausing.

1. Define Response Time Limits: Determine a reasonable timeframe within which to respond, giving yourself the gift of self-reflection to collect your thoughts.

2. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation: Practices that enhance self-awareness and self-control, such as mindfulness and meditation, can be invaluable in learning to pause effectively.

3. Embrace Silence: Don't be afraid of silence during a conversation. It's okay to take a moment to think before responding.

4. Reflect on Tone and Delivery: Use pauses as self-regulation to assess and adjust your tone and delivery, ensuring that your message is not just heard but also received in the spirit intended. This is especially important in sensitive or emotionally charged conversations.

5. Create the Space and Place to Pause: For leaderships teams it can be difficult to create the time and space for self-reflection and improved communications, which are critical for building effective and productive teams. Providing an in-person executive retreat is the best way to give your leaders the grace and space to pause, self-reflect and reconnect with energized and fresh perspectives for deep and meaningful conversations. Whether quarterly, semiannually, or annually planned, executive offsites equip your senior leaders with dedicated time to tackle important issues as a cohesive and fully present peer group.

In an age of instant communication, the practice of pausing before responding has become a valuable skill. It allows for better self-regulation, decision-making, improved relationships, and enhanced personal and professional success. Adopting practical strategies to harness the power of the pause improves not only interpersonal communications but also organizational efficiencies and business outcomes.

Ready to create the time, space, and place for an executive retreat? The CREATiON Companies can help. Learn more about our destinations, facilitation, and leadership learning framework.


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