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Pause before you talk yourself into trouble

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

Ideally, you take time to think before you speak. You imagine the impact your words will have on others and adjust accordingly.

In reality, however, words just flow out of your mouth. Pausing to consider every important statement you make may seem unnatural and unrealistic.

Yet you can talk your way into trouble if you blurt out whatever comes to mind, warns Nance Guilmartin, author of The Power of Pause. Employees may walk away angry and hurt when you merely sought to inform or educate them about what you deem a harmless matter.

“If you’re feeling rushed, you can come across as abrupt,” Guilmartin says. “And if you’re thinking, ‘My boss is pressuring me,’ you might convey that pressure to your employee and trigger a lot of pushback.”

The solution is to pause and reflect on your communication goal. What do you want the other person to think or feel as a result of your comments?

Use the answer to guide your approach. If you want to alert an employee about poor performance, broach the subject tactfully by saying, “I can use your help. There’s an aspect of your performance that needs to improve and I want to explore a solution.”

“Often, people freeze if they think you’re about to criticize them for something they thought they were doing well,” Guilmartin says. “That’s why you should make it clear you’re not blaming them.”

Pausing for a second or two may seem strange at first. But it’s habit-forming. You’ll soon find it serves as a reminder to step outside your own perspective to consider how others respond to what you say.

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