This week I’d like you to think of a recent social interaction and try to remember one thing about it – how many times you paused. Yes, how many times did you let the information you were communicating sink in and really make an impact as research undertaken in Holland suggests it could be a really good idea.
The research found that Dutch and English speaking people tend to find silences of over a few seconds rather uncomfortable – compared to the Japanese for example who apparently have no problem with far lengthier pauses of up to 8 seconds. No matter where you live I can offer anecdotal as well as scientific evidence that suggests that pausing is a really powerful tool. Firstly let me offer my own experience as, as a professional speaker, one of the most impactful things I can do when on stage is actually shut up.
Stopping part way through a presentation, looking at your audience, and saying nothing for a few seconds takes a lot of confidence, and I believe that’s exactly why you should try it. Not just when presenting but also in more regular social situations. I believe it can add to the credibility of the speaker – imagine for a moment you are watching someone with the ability to let 8 – 10 seconds of silence go by when presenting, does it make you feel they are a more accomplished communicator? I think the answer is often yes.
Research presented in the US suggests pausing can add to the impact of the message too with the pause being cited as one of a number of ways of being more persuasive. Personally I use the pause when I’ve just made a big point, one that I really want the audience to remember and really sink in, after all you want them to listen to your message not just hear it.
I’ve heard a number of stories from friends, (and the internet is full of many more), that suggests when you are negotiating – examples include a salary for your new job, or a price for your product of service – choosing to pause can be a very effective way of allowing the space for those you are negotiating with to come back with a better offer – I read at least 3 example of exactly this only yesterday.
So, this week’s suggestion is to pause every now and again when socially interacting – it may not come naturally to you but can have numerous benefits if you can master it.
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Have a good week,
Koudenburg, N., et al., Disrupting the flow: How brief silences in group conversations affect social needs, Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology (2011)