We have a saying in my house. Or at least I do. “That’s right, I was done talking,” I share when someone interrupts me. “I wasn’t just taking a breath.”

Why is it that we, or at least many of us, feel the need to jump in with our thoughts and comments before the person we’re speaking with is done? We cut others off mid-thought, mid-sentence, and even mid-word sometimes, and somehow think it’s okay.

I’ll come clean, I do it too. In my defense (which would probably be everyone else’s defense as well), I do think the person I’m speaking with has made his or her point when I leap into their pause to share my brilliant contribution (or self-protecting explanation). I don’t intentionally interrupt, but I usually feel as if I can’t sit on my words any longer. It’s as if they’re about to come bursting out and I can’t contain them. I believe I have heard the other person’s point, so I share mine.

Thoughtful Leadership requires resisting this irresistible impulse. Fighting against the immediate need to speak, and listening instead. Letting others take a breath, or two even, and finish what they were saying. All the way.

In fact, effective leaders often leave a quiet pause before they speak up – in case the person they’re talking with has more to say, and to let everyone digest what was just said. And then they may jump in, but often with questions for clarification, or agreement with what’s been shared so that the other person feels heard.

Often a conversation seems like two concurrent monologues, with each person making sure they get to say what they want to say and no one really listening to the other. And nothing really getting accomplished or moved forward. There is a coaching acronym that I often share with my clients – WAIT: Why Am I Talking? It’s something my clients often put on a sticky paper on their computer, to help keep them from jumping in at every pause.

Thoughtful leadership requires thoughtful listening and thoughtful dialogue. Which requires me to let you finish your sentence and complete your thought. To wait until you’re actually done talking, and not just taking a breath.

How have you learned to really listen…and let others finish talking?
Let us know.

If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

For support in WAITing, Lisa at lkohn@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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