Why pausing before you speak can help you better communicate at work
Career experts say cutting people off is a by-product of being constantly on the move
By Zameena Mejia
At almost any workplace, there will likely be moments when a colleague tries to share an idea and gets cut off by a fellow employee. Maybe you’re even the culprit sometimes.
But this behaviour is bad for two reasons: It prevents employees from contributing to conversations and may also hurt the offending person’s reputation. That’s according to career expert Jeff Black in a recent conversation with CNBC.
His one simple trick to being a more effective communicator at work? Learn to pause before you speak.
“We are constantly on the move today: We walk too fast, we talk too fast, we cut people off in meetings before they have really finished, we start answering questions before someone even finished asking the question,” Black tells CNBC. “And when we do all of that we look incredibly rushed. We look frantic. We look like everything is a crisis.”
First, Black suggests that pausing before speaking can help you come across as more approachable. By preventing others from finishing their thoughts, you are likely to come off as abrasive, Black says.
When you consciously slow down your actions and speech in the office, Black says you’ll become more comfortable with pausing before speaking or making your next move.
“[This] changes everything because people are now [visualising] and hearing something different,” Black tells CNBC. “They are so used to chaotic and now they see calm and confident. And probably most important of all, they are seeing someone who is approachable.”
An important note: You shouldn’t slow down to the point of being monotone and where you make others want to fall over with boredom, says Black, but you “just need to think a little bit before [you] speak.”
Black’s second reason why pausing can help you communicate more effectively at work? You’ll become more “thoughtful” and “engaged.”
All too often in meetings people interrupt each other, which keeps many other voices from being heard. “Not all of us are able to respond as quickly as some,” says Black.
The solution: “Part of being a good leader is also knowing when to be quiet and when to listen,” Black says. “Even if you have made your decision and they are presenting the different strategies, you should have the respect for your team to be quiet.”
“I think you come across as a better participant because in a way you’re saying this isn’t all about me,” Black says.
He adds that if you cut your team off, they will eventually stop working as hard for you.
“[Their response] may have been the one that saved the company or earned the company a million dollars. And your team missed it, because they gave up and because all you did was cut them off,” Black tells CNBC. “So there’s great value in silence.”