11 reasons to pause when speaking

Pause is power.  You’ll hear the power of silence in talks, stories and conversations.  In fact, I could put my money on the fact that you ALREADY use a plethora of pausing in your conversations.The problem arises when you:

  • get nervous;
  • feel judged;
  • think that you need to convey confidence;
  • feel the pressure to sound as if you know what you’re talking about.

That’s when we either stutter through pauses, use fillers such as ‘erm’ or simply race through our message.

This urge to trample through silence will make your sound less confident and certain.  Here are 11 reasons why you need to be using pauses.

The 11 reasons to pause when speaking

    1. gather your thoughts -when you stop to assemble your points, listeners don’t have to put the effort in to find them.  As a result, it’s easier for them to absorb your message.
    2. prepares the listener to receive the message – if you’re presenting at the beginning of a conference, for example, you want to give your audience time to settle in so that you have their attention.
    3. self-edit – is it actually worth saying anything?  It may be important to speak up, but is this the time?
    4. pausing for emphasis – a slight break before a key word or phrase, highlights what you’re saying.  After a statement is as a effective, giving the audience time to process what you’ve said.
    5. getting rid of fillers – fillers such as ‘um’ and ‘er’ can be distracting if there are too many of them.   Using a pause instead, while your mind flips like a roladex is what some of the most experienced communicators do when called upon to comment spontaneously or when they need to think what’s coming next.  And while your mind is doing this, ironically, the pause serves to make you sound more confident.  Space and status are related.  Using the pause is the aural version of physical space.
    6. breathing – if you don’t stop, you’ll not have time to breathe.  Breathing is rather useful for communicating.  If you don’t breathe, you can’t really communicate.
    7. negotiating – dive in too quickly when you’re accepting an offer and you could be shooting yourself in the foot.  Let’s say, you’re in a role and someone offers to pay you £30,000.  You accept immediately.  Mistake:  what tends to happen, when you allow a pause is that the offer is then increased.
    8. gives time to assimilate information – regardless of whether information is ‘complex’ or not, we connect what we’re hearing with what we already know.  And even if are familiar with the facts, the experience of hearing it is deeper with a pause, allowing what’s just been said to conflate with what we already know.  By not pausing, not only are you obscuring meaning but also denying the experience of this to your listeners.
    9. adds anticipation – a pause for anticipation will have the audience on the edge of their seats.  So when you say, “What happened next was totally unexpected…” in the pause, the audience is gripped, waiting for the reveal.
    10. makes you sound less ‘off-pat’ and more thoughtful – the problem with training senior leaders in interview skills is that when I’ve had interviews in the past, I sound too ‘slick’.  A pause means the question asked deserves thought and makes you sound more sincere and unscripted.
    11. helps the audience follow the meaning – the use of the logical pause signals the closing of a thought.  The logical pause helps us to take in what we hear, and is generally marked by punctuation.  However, when we speak don’t think in sentences but in ‘packets of thought’. A pause will mark each packet.

Your Actions:

  1. Whilst speaking, see what happens when you pause more.
  2. When you ask questions, allow time for others to answer – dare yourself to be uncomfortable with the silence.
  3. Use phrases to buy time before answering so you can organise your thoughts.  You can preface a response with: “Interesting.  Let me think about that.” or paraphrase what you’ve just heard.  That’ll buy you more thinking time, whilst making the person feel acknowledged.

The problem is that pausing can feel so long for the speaker:  a gaping chasm of nothingness.  But I have the antedote.  You’ll get a 5 minute exercise, given to actors to help them adjust to silence.  Feel comfortable with pauses here.

Want some help with you non-verbal and verbal communication? Feel that you could come across more thriller and less vanilla (without compromising who you are)? Contact Frankie Kemp right here for a FREE 30 minute Discovery call.

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