Saturday, October 29, 2005

Asking and pausing

A year or so ago, I signed up for "The TelE-Sales Hot Tips of the Week" e-letter and found many tips for building relationships of influence. This week, the tip was especially relevant to teaching and bears repeating in this space:

One of the best ways to learn about your prospect or customer [or learner] is using a pause at two points in your questioning: after you've asked the question, and after the listener has answered.

Not just a brief pause, but a 2-3 second pause. Here are some of the benefits of this technique.

1. You won't feel compelled to continue talking after asking the question if you force yourself to pause. People don't always immediately answer, and pausing gives them the opportunity to think a bit.
2. The number and length of responses will increase. People feel more comfortable when you give them time to frame their answers, which will likely be more comprehensive.
3. The amount of unsolicited information will increase. By not jumping in immediately after they've answered, they're given a little time to contemplate what they've just said, which may prompt additional comments.
4. You'll have more time to understand what they've said. Since you know you're going to pause, you can spend all of your listening time focused on the message, not on what you will say next.
5. You'll have more time to formulate your next comment. You can use your pause time to develop your next question or statement, which will be more meaningful, since you'll possess more relevant information.
Force yourself to pause after your question, and after they answer... Practice this on the phone and in all areas of your life. You'll find you get more information than you ever have.

Source: Art Sobczak, President, Business By Phone Inc. 13254 Stevens St., Omaha, NE 68137, (402) 895-9399. To sign up for TelE-Sales Tips weekly e-letter, go to and enter your email address.

In working with teachers, I've found there are two significant barriers to pausing after asking. The first is a fear of silence. In our culture, it seems that we view silences as voids to be filled. Perhaps they are, but I've found it beneficial to let others fill them for us. The second barrier is our tendency as teachers to provide answers. Yet, each of us would probably agree that the most significant learning occurs when the learner discovers the answer for herself.

The extraordinary often emerges from the pauses. Ask, pause, and listen.

No comments: