“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”
- Viktor Frankl
I recently discovered this simple concept and it has completely changed the way I communicate with people.
I noticed all the leaders I look up to, all the wisest people I know, the best communicators and mentors, do this same exact thing.
It’s so simple but it makes a ton of sense…
They never respond immediately to a tough question or a matter of opinion.
They always stop, and think.
In person, they might look away from you for a minute and get the wheels turning.
On the phone they might actually say, “give me a moment to think about that”.
Having noticed this, I started to try it for myself and the results have been eye opening.
I for one, feel much better about the responses I give. They’re more concise and thoughtful. And the people I’m talking to respond in a really positive way. They actually find more trust in what I say because they see me take the time to think it through.
When someone asks you a question, do you respond right away?
What if you’re not sure of the answer? What if the question is complicated and multifaceted?
If you’re like I’ve always been, you’d just start talking.
God forbid they’d think I was less intelligent because I wasn’t able to immediately snap back with a perfect answer.
Maybe it’s the Jeopardy dreamers in all of us or maybe we’re influenced by what we see in movies, aspiring to be the quick with a quip Clooney in our own every day lives…
In conversation, we continue to wrongly associate speed with intelligence.
I think we also just don’t like awkward silences. It’s tense when you’re engaged in conversation with someone and then it goes silent. We try to avoid awkward silences in our life. But…
Silence is powerful
That tension is so important. It’s in those times of tense silence where new discoveries are made.
If someone asks you a question and then there’s silence, they start thinking of answers to the question as well. They might even come up with their own solution to their question. The funny thing is they’ll probably still praise you for your wisdom!
When you have an argument with someone, whether it be a coworker or a significant other, creating space for silence allows you both to gain perspective, to contemplate the larger argument, rather than just constantly trying to respond to the last statement.
In reality, the speed of your response isn’t nearly as important as the response itself.
A good response is thoughtful, it’s carefully considered, it’s expressed tactfully.
It can work in group settings as well, like work meetings
When you can be consistently silent, waiting for the moment where your response is most relevant, your words will hold more weight because they aren’t buried in all of your other words.
When you choose to speak less often, people listen closely when you do choose to speak.
It’s easy to talk. Being silent takes confidence, patience and resolve. Great leaders utilize silence and are respected as a result.
If you just blurt out the first thing that comes to your mind every time, your responses will end up being verbose, ineffective and potentially counter to what you actually believe.
Give it a shot.
Next time you’re giving advice, answering someone’s question or arguing try to recognize those moments when you’d usually blurt out a response, but this time don’t.
Let me know how it goes (=
— Photo Credit: ores2k via Compfight cc
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