Particularly when confronted, how well can you apply pausing and reframing to make sure your response best serves your purpose for those circumstances?
Have you ever responded to something and regretted it almost the moment you said it, you know – “why did I say that?”, or “oh my goodness, that just came out so wrong?” It can happen so quickly, and have such consequences too, can’t it? Particularly on the business stage. This is why I teach all my clients the concept of “the gap” or what some call “hitting the pause button”.
What Is “The Gap”?
What do I mean by “the gap”? I once asked a monk what is and how do you meditate. He said: “you know the gap between one thought finishing and the next one starting? Prolong it….. That’s meditation”.
I could relate to that. Just being and breathing. No thoughts.
It is this “just allowing a gap” that I recommend you to utilize so you create time to think about a response for a few seconds before you make it.
The Right Response
So before you react in anger or under pressure or out of being confronted next time, why not allow yourself a space to reflect before you answer or respond? It doesn’t have to be a long time – just a pause. One that’s quite socially acceptable in the realms of normal conversation – maybe 4-5 seconds. Try it – it’s really not that long. But long enough… People will also think more highly of that response given the amount of time you gave to considering it before you made it.
Palm Touching Your Nose
I also often use the metaphor of when your palm is touching your nose, that you can’t see your fingers. However, if you stretch your hand away from your face, you can see them quite clearly, can’t you? It’s akin to “stepping back” and allowing yourself to “see the trees”. This can be used so effectively if you notice you are about to embark on a “pattern” of behaviour that doesn’t get the best results for you, and to arrest it’s repetition.
Think of the gap – prolong it – and use it to ask yourself: “is this the only way I can respond to this situation?” Then let your unconscious mind give you some options to make the right response; the one that is more likely to get yo the outcome you are looking for at that time.
Pausing and Reframing
This selection of “the right response” leads us to a concept called a reframe which is simply looking for other ways of looking at something – seeking a different perspective by asking, “What other ways might there be of looking at this?”
I have learned to ask in the gap before my more important responses:
• “What outcome do I want?”
• “Which responses may best serve to get it?”
Let me give you an example: one of my technical clients was worried about taking on a new leadership role, concerned about whether he could cope with the demands his new subordinates might place on him. I asked him to think back to the birth of his first child and what the colour the “user manual” was that came with its delivery. He smiled, recalling how well he coped with one of life’s more demanding requirements. With that we managed to “reframe” his thinking about his situation and remove some of the “angst”.
When I look back on this I realize I have been using this for a long time in my leadership roles. For example if I was confronted by an angry staff member or vendor etc I’d often ask: “is this the only way we can look at this?”
In tricky or unfamiliar situations I also learned to ask myself “who do I know that would be good at this and how might they respond?”
Later in this series, when we talk about diplomacy, one fundamental we will cover is to create a gap to consider how what we are about to say, might affect the feelings of the person we are talking to, before we say it.
Also, a reframe can be very powerfully used to return us to being “at cause” if we may have lapsed into any “PLOM” (Poor Little Old Me) thinking, in that we can apply the same technique to create a gap and ask ourselves: ”what different ways might there be of thinking about this?”
As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to adopt the right attitude and behaviour before those we lead, to inspire and to lead them. To do that we need to maintain our attitude “at cause”. In the often black and white or right or wrong approach in our “hard skilled business world”, using the gap, we can create the necessary space to consider and select the best response for each situation. Using that gap to reframe questions or outcomes that might initially be perceived as a negative, can often allow us to find ways of looking for and influencing the positive or constructive in them instead.
So What Next?
So can you see how easily this pausing and reframing to gather your thinking might be able to help you pick the right response?
Whilst maybe feeling strange or unfamiliar to start with, what if if you were remind yourself to practice the gap and the reframe the next times the opportunity arose, and what if over time you were to master its use unconsciously so that it became a “soft skill” that helped differentiate you from other “hard skilled” professionals? What if it helped you make a big difference in your communication skills and your influencing skills?
Why not “have a go” and see how well it works for you? Most of my clients swear by it.