A few days ago I was helping my godson with his homework. The English lesson was practicing the Silent ‘e’. Remember the silent ‘e’? That magical letter that changes the sound of a word? Short vowels become long. Closed syllables become open.
I was struck by the fact that the most frequently used vowel in the English language is also the one that has the power to change the meaning of a word by its silence. ‘Hop’ becomes ‘Hope’. ‘Not’ becomes ‘Note’.
Earlier that same day I had facilitated a workshop for the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. The session was called ‘Staying in the Driver’s Seat’ and was designed to help travel managers learn how to manage upwards more effectively.
Travel Managers confessed to being overwhelmed with work and reactive to CFO demands. They shared with me that their meetings are often very harried and stressful. I suggested several skills to help them in conversations with their C-level executives.
- Ask good questions about your CFO’s goals
- Paraphrase back what you hear
- Empathize with their situation
- Made clear recommendations supported by relevant data
- Figure out how to be in alignment their objectives
But one tool I didn’t think to offer was the power of the pause, and the silent ‘e’ reminds me that pausing, or the deliberate use of silence has becoming a lost art.
The Power of a Pause
Pausing during important conversations helps to:
- Slow yourself down so that you can be clear and come across as confident
- Give the other person time to absorb your information and process their thoughts about your points
- Diffuse tension
- Create a feeling of calm in the room. Show that you are patient
- Improve your ability to listen deeply. Our studies show that the most effective leaders spend 70% of their time listening and only 30% of their time talking.
Which happened to be the answer to the last question on my Godson’s homework. It came with a nifty visual too: