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A Pregnant Pause

Blog #290

The definition of a ‘pregnant pause’ is suggested as a break in conversation that builds suspense for dramatic effect, or that it engenders an expectation (“pregnant” = “expecting”). It is often used with great effect in comedy; however, when combined with being present, this can become an amazing tool in your home and professional life.

As our lives become more hectic, bombarded with input, and because we live in a reactionary mode, it is vital that we slow down to have the greatest impact possible. If you have ever been in conversation with someone who is “very” important and/or busy, you have likely experienced the opposite of a pregnant pause. We have all had conversations in which the last syllable has barely escaped our lips and the person we are speaking with responds – in some cases, with a response that does not fit the question. Even if the response comes across as lucid, we can feel dismissed. We may feel this way because it is difficult to comprehend that the person we were speaking with took any time to consider what we were saying and, more than likely, they want to tell us their thoughts instead of answering the question. Right or wrong, it could seem as if that person was not listening in the first place, thus giving little point to the conversation.

This can also happen when a person is in automatic mode and buried deep in thought or an electronic device. These moments are when you can witness the negatives of a “multi-tasker”, or people who automatically respond with “Uh-huh”, “Okay”, “Alright”, or many other benign, generic responses. At one time or another, we have all experienced this. And candidly, there is little that is more disrespectful. When faced with this, I start making up wildly ridiculous stories until they snap out of it. If I encounter this and I receive the generic response, I may say, “I’m going to steal your car.” If I receive another generic response, I say, “And I’m going to fill it full of raw fish and leave it in the sun.” If there is still no response, I simply walk away.

In either example, this is less of a dialogue and more of a waste of time.

So, when someone comes to you, remember the greatest gift you can give them is your full attention and presence. If you are in the middle of something, ask them to wait or come back when you can be present. When engaged, actively listen. Stare into their eyes, and try to hear and understand what they are saying. When they finish speaking, stop, breathe, and take a few seconds to think (a pregnant pause) before responding. These seconds will validate the other person and assure them that you are thinking about what they have said. If the idea expressed is unclear, ask clarifying questions. Once you understand what they are asking, take another pregnant pause to respond candidly and directly.

Here’s a dad example: A three-year-old daughter asks her father, “Can I have ice cream?” Keeping eye contact, breathing, and allowing time for the pregnant pause, her dad responds, “Not right now, but how about after dinner?”

And here’s an example from the workplace. An employee states, “I want to hire an executive assistant.”  After a pregnant pause, the employer responds, “Help me understand why.” The employee suggests that it will provide them with more time to do more sales. The employer looks into the employee’s eyes, breathes, and says after another pregnant pause, “I understand. Will you please create an outline of what you believe this additional time can drive for additional revenue, as well as the estimated costs of having an executive assistant? Once we have that, let’s review your proposal and discuss again.”

In both cases, these encounters could go south – and fast – if people were not actively listening. It is important for the person asking the question to be heard and understood.

How are you when it comes to being present and actively listening? Do you take time to listen, engage, and use a pregnant pause? Need help with engaging your team? We can help! Contact us today to find out how.

Keep Smiling,