Pause is a very powerful tool in communication

When you speak, the pause builds authority and power

When you listen, the pause invites listenees to share something deeper without saying anything

Pause creates silence

Silence is a beautiful phenomenon

With silence, it stills the water in the mind, allowing the buried thought to surface

As a listener, you must take advantage of the silence

Listenees will inevitably be forced to bring up their previous buried thoughts because that's what's the profound impact of silence

Silence is great and you create silence by simply pausing in a listening session

Ironically, most listeners are not comfortable with silence

Listeners believe that there's nothing there

They believe silence is the awkward moments between each sentences

As a result, they immediately cover up those moments of silence immediately with words of their own

Take following for example:

Betty: "Hey Tom, you don't look so well lately. What's on your mind?"
Tom: "Oh you noticed? Guess I am not good at hiding it. I am not really happy with my job lately. There's too much stress... " (Wants to take a few breaths before talking about how he wants to find a new job closer to home)
Betty: (Notices the pause and immediately continues) "Oh was your boss the one that's troubling you?"
Tom: "No, my boss is very nice, he treats everyone very well. He takes care of everyone."
Betty: "Then what is the issue?"

Problem with the conversation

There's a problem here. Betty did not notice Tom was not finished with his thoughts.

Tom cannot speak non-stop. He has to take a few breaths and recollect his thoughts before he can speak again. It did not mean he is done talking.

Betty assumed the silence was awkward and so immediately jumps in and assume that the issue was Tom's boss.

This changes the direction of the conversation away from the core issue

This may not seem like a big issue at first

But with continually cutting someone off before they finish and keep changing directions of the conversation

The listenee will get tired of correcting the listener all the time

The moment listenee feels misunderstood, they will stop sharing more about themselves

So if Betty keeps on jumping in and assuming things, although she was doing it out of good intentions, Tom will be less willing talk about it more.

How to implement pauses in a conversation

It is simple, you simply:

  1. incorporate the 5 second rule

Every time when listenees finished a sentence, take the 5 second rule. It's about the time you take 2 - 3 slow full breaths.

What you will notice is listenees hesitates a little, since there's silence, listenee decided to keep talking to fill the void

When they speak again after the pause, they typically share deeper and more vulnerable information about themselves which is what is needed in a great listening conversation

If they don't speak, just wait a little longer then you can continue with what you have to say

That is it!

With that, you allow listenees to be able to share deeply without doing anything!

You just have to be comfortable with the silence and allow them to break the silence if they have something more to share

The right conversation with 5-second rule

Let's go back to the conversation above to see what happens if you incorporate the 5 second rule

Betty: "Hey Tom, you don't look so well lately. What's on your mind?"
Tom: "Oh you noticed? Guess I am not good at hiding it. I am not really happy with my job lately. There's too much stress... " (Wants to take a few breaths before talking about how he wants to find a new job closer to home)
Betty: (Notices the pause and SLOWLY counts to 5 seconds, 1... 2... 3... 4...)
Tom: "This is making me miss my family and I miss them dearly. I want to move closer to home so I can see them more often." (Takes a few breaths again... wants to continue talking about his family...)
Betty: (Notices the pause and SLOWLY counts to 5 seconds, 1... 2... 3...)
Tom: "I am always happy seeing them. Whenever I am sad or upset I can just share with my parents and they always seem to have good advice for me. That helps a lot."

As you see here, Betty did not interrupt Tom and gave him the space to breathe and continue on what he was saying

Betty didn't say anything at all, she just paused and waited

Tom continued on with the conversation and was able to tell Betty why he didn't look so well

All of this happened without Betty doing anything other than asking "What's on your mind?"

Final Remark

Pausing is a very simple yet very underrated skill in communication, especially when listening to others

If you ever want to make someone feel more comfortable sharing more about themselves

Pausing is one of the great ways to do it

You don't need to do anything at all

Just relax, stay silent, and you will be surprised on what will happen next while listening

Try it out on everyone you talk to others

After others finish each sentence, have a gentle 5 second pause

You will sometimes be amazed on what you will find