Asking questions is a part of my nature. Growing up, my mother called me Rona Barrett because of my incessant questions. So, it’s probably quite fitting that I make a living asking them. Often directly, as when I’m working 1:1 with coaching clients. And indirectly, as when I”m presenting. My talks are a way of inviting people to think about money differently. To me, that’s a form of questioning, too. 

So, I know the power of a question and the thoughts and actions it can provoke. I also know the power of an answer in terms of how it can provide clarity and insight about your goals, values, beliefs and expectations.

But what is underrated and really, really powerful is the pause – that moment of silence – between when you answer a question you’ve been asked. (Or, that you’ve asked yourself.)

How good are you at pausing? Is it something you do frequently? Easily?

I’m going to venture a guess and say, it’s not something you do frequently or easily (unless it’s part of your profession). Why? Because most of us have been conditioned to avoid the silence of “dead air.” 

When you are on live TV or radio, having dead air is, indeed, not a good thing. But in most other scenarios, a moment of silence can be potent.  

And, the pause doesn’t have to be long to be effective. In conversation with others, it can be a couple of seconds. Regarding a self-inquiry process, you can take days, if necessary. 

You simply need to give yourself permission to do it, and to embrace the discomfort that may surface in the meantime – whether the pause is two seconds or two days. 

While pausing is incredibly useful, it remains an underutilized tool. Both when communicating with others and when you’re engaged in a self-inquiry process.

And look, just because I’m good at asking and instigating questions, that doesn’t mean I don’t also need to improve my pausing skills. So, I’m writing this as a reminder for you and me. 🙂

Same Question; Different Answer

As you may have noticed, I like reminding people that their relationship with money is one of the longest relationships they’ll have

One of the reasons I do this is to help you see how you can have the same question today as you did, for example, five years ago. Let’s take the question, “How much should I be saving?” More than likely your circumstances and the context thereof have changed within those five years. Therefore, the answer to that very same question will undoubtedly be different today – than what it was in the past. Or, at least it should be… 

Taking a minute to pause before answering this – or any of your money and money related questions – gives you a chance to consider what aspects of your personal and professional environment have changed. Because those changes will more than likely impact the answers you’re seeking. 

That’s one reason the pause (or moment of silence) is valuable. 

Here are a few more:

  • It gives you a chance to reflect and validate your initial instincts.
  • It gives you a chance to process your feelings and do an emotional check-in.
  • It gives you a chance to “hear” yourself think and perhaps process information in a new way.

All of which makes pausing your secret weapon when it comes to making decisions (small or large) for your life and work. 

And I guess you can think of what I wrote last week in terms of creating space as a pause, too. Though, in that instance, I was referring to pausing your usual routine.

Up For an Experiment?

If you’re game, give this experiment a try:

First, write down the most recent time you paused – whether it was before answering a question or before taking an action. What happened next, and how do you feel about it now?

Second, choose a day this upcoming week to track, in real-time, how often you pause. What were the circumstances, who else was involved, what did you do after you paused, and what was at stake?

Third, compare the two scenarios looking for similarities and differences.

To be clear, this is a totally unscientific experiment. I made it up as I was thinking about this piece. But here’s why I’m suggesting it: I know the power of tracking and collecting data so that you can identify patterns of behavior. 

Pausing, I believe, can improve the quality of whatever comes next – be it an answer you give or an action you take (or both).

But like with a lot of things, one of the best ways to maximize the power of pausing is to know how often you actually do it. That means you gotta track it.

And just like creating space is muscle that gets better the more you use it, the same is true when it comes to pausing.

Is it too corny to say, “Happy Pausing!” 🙂

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