August 12, 2022

A Pause Before Answering

How you respond to a question can be more than just what you say.
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The other day my partner said he noticed something a lot of my friends and work associates do in common: they often pause for a breath before answering a question they’ve been asked.

I think I’m so inured to this behavior that I no longer notice it. Still, the observation is accurate. I do it too when I’m present. I hear a question, I pause for a moment to truly listen to the question, and I endeavor to offer an honest, reflective answer that feels accurate in that moment.

So. If you ask “how are you doing?” I will likely answer honestly after such a pause. If you ask me what feels new and interesting lately, I will take a reflection pause so I can really check inside myself on what feels new and interesting.

I don’t do this all the time. When I don’t, I’m usually feeling stress and/or feeling righteous. As I thought about my partner’s point, I realized that this behavior is a trailing indicator, a reflection, of how available I am for connection.

This behavior also often evidences actual listening. It shows that I’m crediting a question and the questioner as being worth genuine time and consideration.

I imagine these things come through to the questioner. I imagine this is something my partner notices. It feels nice. It actually feels nice on both sides. When I consume and respond to questions in this way, I usually learn something in the process.

Now, to be clear, like many aspects of conscious living, this behavior can be faked. You can put on a big “consciousness” persona and act like a question about what you want for dinner is a major inner-purpose challenge. Go for it.

And, when it’s authentic, it becomes almost undetectable as a separate thing. It is just part of the rise and flow and give and take of conversation and connection. And I really dig it.

Photo by Dominick Guzzo

Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner is an executive coach, Conscious Leadership facilitator, and catalyst for change.

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