Coaching CEOs on giving compelling presentations, I am reminded of the Power of the Pause. Using the pause when speaking is incredibly powerful. Think of it as the same as white space in graphic design; what you leave blank is as important as what you fill in on a page. In public speaking pauses are important because they indicate to your audience the significance of what you are saying. Pauses also give your audience time to assimilate information you just shared. I recommend pausing for five seconds when a new slide is shown so that the audience gets a chance to read the headline and glance at the visual on the slide prior to hearing words. I also recommend a two-second pause after a key point is made. For example, when a start-up CEO says, “Revenues have doubled every year for the past three years,” an immediate pause lets the audience grasp the importance of that information. Great speakers use pauses intentionally.
Pause is not only powerful for speaking, but it is also powerful for listening. In the American culture, we tend to talk right after one another. We could debate the reason (I believe it has to do with how we value individual over collective), but just understanding the norm is what is important. Pausing while speaking in a one-to-one interaction lets the other person speak. Pausing when the other person has finished speaking lets them know you were truly listening and also that you are carefully considering your words of reply. I am not talking minutes of silence here, just 2-3 seconds of quiet. Breaking the cultural norm, in this case, is a powerful communication technique.
Gregory Kramer wrote Insight Dialogue about interacting mindfully. While practicing his technique is intricate, he has six basic instructions I think everyone could use for communication.
- Trust Emergence
- Listen Deeply
- Speak the Truth
Of course, it starts with The Pause. As soon as we pause in speaking with others, the possibility of a different type of interaction arises. When we relax and open to the experience, we learn to trust what emerges. Listening deeply and speaking the truth (subjective truth of experience) creates a dialogue that respectful and facilitates mutual understanding.
Whether speaking or listening, the pause is a powerful communication tool.
Use The Power of the Pause.