Better Dialogue

June 2nd, 2012

This week during three separate coaching sessions, clients asked me how to be better at communicating. As I explored with each the ‘issue behind the issue’ it was clear the person felt he/she tended to jump into conversations in a rapid-fire, your turn/my turn manner.

“When we’re in meetings,” one said, “it’s as if the entire room is salivating in anticipation of a small sliver of an opening so someone else can speak. There’s never silence.”

I asked questions to help him find clarity about what his preferred style would be, and he realized the true desire is to not react poorly to something someone said. From his perspective, there is a tendency to say things abruptly that heighten the energy flowing around the room or in one-on-one discussions, then he regrets it afterward… and often has to circle back to conduct damage control.

There is a technique called ‘take a pause’ that I shared with him, and we did some role-playing so he could be comfortable with silence. The first time I asked him to remain silent for 10 seconds after I finished talking. I ran a stopwatch, and he was surprised to learn his first words came only six seconds later. We began to reduce the time expanse until he had a sense of the length of just a two-second moment of silence.

If you find yourself struggling with non-stop, rapid-fire conversations – or in meetings you’re chomping at the bit to get in a word edgewise, practice taking a pause. Not only will you have more peace inside, you’ll find your answers are more concise and appropriate. It’s amazing what a difference two seconds will make in your effectiveness.

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