Ready, set, action! Jay and I were at the altar. We were exchanging our marriage vows. In the middle of the exchange, Jay paused. Or did he? My eyes widened. Panic set in. Had Jay forgotten what to say?
Although they’re an important part of interacting with others, pauses in conversation sometimes cause discomfort. This can be true for me… I sometimes feel the urge to blurt out my thoughts. Sometimes I can’t stop talking. I’m not listening. I’m not observing. I’m ruining the natural cadence of the exchange. Why? Maybe I won’t get the chance to be heard.
Or, perhaps we’re on the receiving end, unable to interject ourselves into a conversation. We’re quiet because of our fear not to be understood. Other participants seem to speak so eloquently.
Many of us, for whatever reason, have missed out on what might have been said, explored, agreed upon or created during a conversation because The Pause was missing. “Oh, woe” is not The Pause!
Let’s look back at the “marriage conversation”! Admittedly committing to one another for life is a serious conversation! And Jay had NOT forgotten one word of our vows. Not at all! He was fully taking in the moment: the slowly spoken promises; feeling my hands in his, looking straight in my eyes, reading my heart; being witnessed by family, friends and God; experiencing the hush and soft candlelight in the pretty Tudor church; fully knowing that our commitment was true. Later when I asked him, “why did you stop?” he said it seemed like the right tempo for what was happening. He didn’t want to rush it! Let’s not rush our communication either.
Here are some tips for confidently creating natural breaks in conversation:
Quiet certitude: “Rein in our horses” and trust that what should be heard and said will happen.
Non-verbal communication: Observe the unspoken cues. They tell us how best advance the conversation.
No Agenda: Let go of our “autobiographies”, whatever agenda we’re wishing to push and, instead, relax! If we empathize as a listener, we’ll be able to offer a genuine versus reactive response.
Empathetic Listening: As Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, reminds us “seek first to understand, then to be understood”…this works in every interaction.
Practice: Practice always. There are so many reasons why we don’t act appropriately or too eagerly or steamroll a discussion or don’t say anything; yet, to build understanding we want to continually strive to listen and reflect back and ask thoughtful relevant questions. Practice everyday, forever.
In addition to our relationships, pausing is just good for the soul. We pause for a meal. Why not use conversational pauses to create deeper connection at your A Table In Time!