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Pause and Breathe. Then Act or Speak.

January 11, 2010

If you have heard the great orators of our time on television, radio, or the internet, you will have inevitably noticed that they pause, breathe, and then speak. There is a very good reason to do this when delivering a message in front of a crowd. The message you are delivering impacts people in a profound way in which you yourself have been impacted by listening to speakers and leaders. The speaker who is comfortable in front of the crowd shows confidence by speaking consistently and fluidly. They speak without uttering an “um”, “ah”, “like” or “you know”. These are grammatical mistakes which we have become accustomed to by the ubiquity of bad shows on television and subsequently the ubiquity of television in our lives.

It is a good practice before you begin speaking to pause, take a deep breath, make eye contact, and then continue with your delivery. Breathing causes your body to take in necessary oxygen which feeds your brain’s critical functions. Without getting too much in depth into human physiology, I’ll just state that the more you breathe, the more active your brain becomes.  Pausing, breathing will make you look like a more confident person in front of your audience and can have a profound effect in the rest of your life as well.

Paul Bergman wrote a blog entry on the subject in which he compares the the need of an “Undo send” button in GMail to one in real life. I thought it was particularly entertaining and can give you a different perspective on the same message I convey here.

There’s no rule that says we need to respond to something right away. Pause. Take a few breaths. (Paul Bergman, 2009)

There are situations in the work place when a pause is more important than you think. Humans being an emotional as well as an intellectual animal have a tendency to act sometimes without thinking. People in leadership positions have to balance many different parts of their lives, both personal and work related. They are often required to make quick decisions and react to incidents that may have deep impacts in people’s lives. Customers, clients, employees, vendors, and partners, soldiers, and citizens alike are dependent on the decisions of leaders. This is why everyone, but leaders especially should take a moment to pause, breathe and then act or speak.

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