Monday, January 26, 2009


Article by: Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, January 13, 2009

The “Pause”, life’s lesson number 8,548. I don’t remember what the other 8,547 lessons were only that there had to be at least that many in my lifetime thus far. If only I were aware of the pause years long ago, things would be different.

It has been said that we are where we are because of the people we have met, the books we have read, and the training we have taken. I am going to suggest that as important as these things are, what we say, how we say it and when we say it may have more to do with our success, or not, than anything else we may have done or will ever do.

I have always known that words can make us or break us. It took me 63 years to figure out that the “timing” of what we say can also make or break us. It is natural to REACT to the things we experience whether they are the spoken word, physical actions or situations we find ourselves in – we simply react without thinking. Driving a car may be the best example of a reaction, conscious or otherwise. What we say and when we say it should require “thinking” BEORE we say what may be considered a knee-jerk reaction. I don’t want to sound scientific but think of it as a formula


What would happen if we modified this formula to?


What a difference a pause can make in the results you get!

Example: I find that the older I get the less I really have to say in general conversations. I seem to focus on what needs to be said rather than idle chatter. A lot of people around me are not on that same page. They talk, they have things going on in their minds like everyone does and when other people speak, some of the words may be heard. Other words are not and in between a lot of what was said is misunderstood, the words transposed, the meaning changed and/or the words are just lost in the grey matter of the mind. I have lately found myself saying to my wife, “You never listen to what I say!” From that point the conversation usually goes down hill rapidly.

It was because of a similar conversation this past week I observed the power of the pause. Here is the way it worked (in the past):

My wife would say something to me.I would respond
My wife would not hear or listen or understand what I said and come up with a different response than I had intended
My reaction would be, “You never listen to what I say!”

Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t; it is not important. What IS important is that my message was not received as I intended it to be. So whose fault is that? My wife’s – of course! Just kidding. At least that was until this past week when I discovered the power of the pause. Same situation:

My wife would say something to me.
I would respond
My wife would not hear or listen or understand what I had said and say something completely opposite of what I had intended.
My NEW reaction is to PAUSE for just a second or two and then to THINK about WHAT I am going to say next. Will it be the tried and failed reaction of the past or a new measured response? In that few seconds, I think not so much of what I had just said that was misunderstood but rather maybe HOW I said it as much as WHAT I said and what my BODY LANGUAGE also said at that very instant. Instead of placing the blame on the other person, my wife, for not understanding, I now accept the blame for not saying it correctly in the first place and/or not making sure I had my wife’s undivided attention. We all multi-task. If you are engaged in multi-tasking, can you possibly give someone your undivided attention? So instead of, “You never listen to what I say”, I now say…

“You know, (hate that phrase but somehow it seems appropriate in this case), I must not have said what I meant to say. What I meant to say was . . .”

I have found that by inserting a couple of seconds of pause in my conversations instead of having a knee jerk reaction, I have much better results. Sounds so simple and simple things are usually that – so simple we fail to see them.

Question: Have you ever taken a course in listening? Not only have I not taken one, I have never seen one – at least until I started teaching one – I call it “Listening For A Change.” That could mean that maybe for the first time you actually listen or you in fact listen to affect some form of change in your life or situation. Zig Ziglar said, “We are born with two ears and one mouth therefore we should listen twice as much as we talk.” The problem as I see it is that when someone else is talking, most of us, certainly not you, are already formulating in our minds what we are going to say next. Oftentimes we do not even wait for the other person to finish what they are saying before we jump on the end of their sentence with what we have to say. And as we all know, what we have to say is far more important than what anyone else has to say.

Action Steps

1. Try using the pause in your next conversation. Let the other person talk and BEFORE you respond, don’t say anything for at least two seconds; not a very long period of time but the first time you try it the silence will be deafening. I believe that the other person will notice your silence and consciously or unconsciously think that you are actively thinking about what they had said. How would you feel if the next person you talk to did not immediately respond to what you had just said and seemed to be thinking? Don’t know about you, I would think I may have struck a nerve (good or bad) and that the person is really thinking about what I had just said. I also believe that is a good thing, wouldn’t you?

2. If you are like me and find yourself saying things like, “You never listen to what I say.” To a friend or spouse, give them $5.00 the next time and every future time you say it and I guarantee you, you won’t be saying it for long.


Cunctator said...

I appreciate your analysis of the importance of thinking before immediately reacting to some stimulus. Some cultures, such as the ancient Greeks, took this to the extreme of, once having drawn logical conclusions with regard to some important decision, reinitiating the discuss over intense libation. If, after discussing the topic with this new mind set, they came to the same conclusions, then their decision had to be correct.

Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown said...

Thank you for reviewing the Nugget and your comment, much appreciated.