Two weeks ago in my blog, I confessed that I talk a lot.  To combat dominating a conversation, I worked—and still work—at being an active listener.  One of the ways to do this is to know how and when to use the power of a pause in your daily conversations.  Mastering it will help build the relationships that are key to your success as a leader. You also want to be aware of phrases that stop conversations in their tracks and filler words that can help or hinder the impact of what you say.

Brenda Barbosa, in a post entitled 1 Tool that Will Make Your Conversation Flow Better, said the best advice she ever got was, “shut up and listen.”  Of course, you are quiet when you the person you are speaking with is talking.  But are you just waiting for your chance to talk?

Some of us jump in with a comment even as the other party is still talking.  Others are more respectful outwardly but are busy formulating their reply.  Both behaviors show when we are not listening. Not the best basis for forming or continuing a relationship.

Here is where the pause comes in. Even if you know what you need/want to say next, take that moment. When you do so consciously you breathe deeper, and that sends more oxygen to your brain. You get a better understanding of what the other person is trying to communicate.  By pausing you will make a better, more relevant reply, and you will validate what the other person is saying to you.  A win/win.

When we validate another’s opinion, even if we disagree (yes, you can do both) with it, we build trust, a necessary component if you are going to have a relationship that leads to cooperation. In our digital age, we communicate with multiple devices, but you get the biggest return in a one-on-one conversation and the best results in that conversation when we are active listeners.

In the workplace, you are usually speaking in the Personal or possibly Intimate Space, which I described in my blog one month ago. In this space, you view body language, see each others’ faces. The voice is clearer and no emoticons are needed.  To make the connection, you need to be fully present and the pause will get you there.

And then there is the Yabut. It’s something you know, even if you’ve never heard it called this.  Marvin G. Knittel explained on the Psychology Today page How a Yabut Can Kill A Conversation. He gives this example, “I said to my friend, ‘This has been the nicest day we’ve had in a long time.’  My friend, said, ‘Yabut, you know our weather won’t last.’” Have you ever done that?  I’m sure I have.

Knittel goes on to quote Steve Cochrane as saying the Yabut may be the “No. 1 killer of collaboration, cooperation, great ideas and innovation in any organization.”  The complete opposite of what you are seeking.  The suggestion is to try, “Yes, and….”

Filler words can go either way. We all use them   A pause is good, and it’s common to say “umm” or “uh” when we are doing so since most of us have an aversion to silence in a conversation.  Use it occasionally and it moves things along.  Use it repeatedly and you sound uncertain.

Then there are the recurring words such as “actually,” “like”, “totally”, “you know”, and a number of others, most of which make us sound like teens in an 80’s movie.  They do have their uses.  Fluent U suggests some very good ones in their article Quick English Filler Words You’ll Thank Yourself for Learning. However, Christopher Mele’s New York Times “So, Umm, How Do You, Like, Stop Using Filler Words?” makes the point that if we use too many of these words our conversation, we don’t sound very intelligent.  Filler words minimize what you are saying. Unfortunately, Mele doesn’t offer a cure, but awareness is an important first start.

My suggestion is to start listening to yourself. You won’t be able to stop using the filler words at first, but by being more aware of when you use them, you can slowly delete them from your conversation.  Actually, I have uh managed you know to literally almost get them out of my speech pattern. Totally.  


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