The Power of the Pause…

Ellen Patnaude, Patnaude Coaching

Everybody thinks and everybody talks. But we all have preferences for the order in which we’d like to do those things. Those preferences are hard-wired into us. Regardless of those preferences, we can all occasionally benefit from the power of the pause. Taking a minute before speaking.

In a high-stress situation where someone is upset, I don’t hesitate to engage. I can fire back with the best of them. The more off-base the other person’s statements are, the more riled up I get and the more my mouth goes off.

Not my call

Recently, I was listening in on a phone call because I was involved in a situation, even though the person had not called me directly. My blood started boiling and the aggressive responses were on the tip of my tongue. I was itching to set the other person straight. 

But it wasn’t my phone call. Somehow, I was able to recognize that speaking up would make things exponentially worse for the recipient of this phone call. Instead of speaking, I took a lot of deep breaths and paced around a bit. I held my tongue. I leaned into the power of not responding at all in the moment. The person taking the call simply said (very calmly), “I’m sorry you feel this way. I’d like some time to think about this more before I respond.” 

Turns out, sometimes that helps diffuse the situation quite quickly. Also turns out, our “accuser” doesn’t have any power over us or over the situation they were so upset about. I could only see that after taking that pause.

Wanting to respond in the moment is an external processor trait, which I am. If you’re someone who prefers to have time to think before you have to respond, especially in a stressful situation, you’re likely an internal processor. For you, the temptation to fire off a response is easier to resist. But your opportunity for growth comes in asking for what you need. Internal processors are less likely to actually express wanting time to think about what’s been said.

How can you apply this?

Wherever you find yourself on this spectrum, I invite you to reflect on these questions. 

What’s your tendency – thinking before speaking or speaking as you’re thinking?

In what situations would you benefit from taking a pause before responding?

How can you communicate that desire to the person with whom you are engaging?

How will they benefit from that? How will you benefit from that?

Speaking like a leader sometimes means not reacting, but asking for what we need instead.

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen Patnaude

Ellen E. Patnaude has been coaching, training, and developing people to achieve higher levels of success in a professional capacity since 1997.

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