Pausing to Learn

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People who communicate well are acknowledged for their ability, to socialize, to sell, to lead and to manage. However, while we know that speaking well is important, we often do not realize the power in listening well. 


The best way to persuade someone is with your ears - by listening to them. (Dean Rusk)


One of the best ways to listen better is to pick up the nuances in what is said verbally and non-verbally. The best time to do so is when we stop our own internal chatter. The power of Silence or the power of the pause is a skill that is worth developing.


How does this work? 


To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe. (Marilyn von Savant)


Let me illustrate this with examples from speaking - in public and on an interpersonal level.


In public speaking, effective pausing:


1. Enables listeners to better grasp the overall meaning of what you want to deliver. It enables the listener to figure out your words and create a better picture in their minds.


2.  Short pauses aid paraphrasing and are indicative of the punctuations - one second for a comma, two seconds for a full-stop or exclamation and three seconds for a question mark. 


3. The audience gets the humour in the joke, and gives you a better chance to get the laughs you deserve. In general, pause before and after the punch line. This helps the delivery and also gives your audience time to pick up the humour and laugh appropriately.


4. Analyze audience reactions, and this enables you to make the minor changes that could enhance an ordinary speech into a memorable one.


5. Transitioning from one part of your speech into the next.


6. Dramatization of portions of your speech, enabling your listeners to pick up the mood that your words and expressions are indicating.


On an interpersonal level, ‘pausing' gives you time to:


1. Read the body language and facial expressions of the person speaking.


2. Analyze exactly what the other person is saying. This is called reading between, and beyond the lines. 


3. Respond through your nodding, body language and facial expressions, indicating whether you understand and are in sync with what has been stated


4.  Figure out what your response is going to be


5. Avoid making statements on a rush of blood - this is a great technique to avoid the damage caused by knee-jerk reactions.


6. Most importantly, a long pause often helps you to avoid saying something, and when the other person's says something, it will give you a deeper insight into what is really happening in his mind. Counselors use this technique to uncover hidden truths. You can use it and you will be amazed by how much more you will learn from your conversations. All you have to do is to pause a little more than normal.


In general, pausing between activities, and the normal rush of day to day living helps us to appreciate our lives more, and to see the world in a new way. I enjoy asking myself a key question "What else..... " For example.... What else could this mean? What else could I learn? What else could I do? What else could I be?


In meditation, we try to increase the gap between thoughts. This helps us to gain control of our minds and to stop it from chattering incessantly. It is easy to shut out the sounds of the outer world. But the inner self talks continuously. Power comes from controlling our thoughts and from harnessing and focusing the power of the mind to do our bidding.


The next time you pause, enjoy the world a little more - look at the beauty in a flower; enjoy the pitter-patter of the rain; the hum of engine;  the whirr of a motor.... Or the beat of your own heart. Life is short, and it is fast. Lets take a break.... And squeeze every bit of juice from the wonder we call life...  


Ian Faria is a corporate trainer, motivational speaker and a success coach 


Issue BG77 Aug07


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