In 1937, Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People. The book was read by executives and everyone trying to move up in their job or life. The masterpiece contained 291 pages of groundbreaking techniques that are still used to this day.
Unfortunately, I’m one who jokes that I like the movie better than the book - two hours, no reading. Nothing against Carnegie and his amazing work, but here is a simple technique that you can use to win friends, influence people, win business and nail that interview without opening a book. Pause. That is it, just pause and take a breath.
As a professional that trains executives to put their best foot forward when they speak to the media or in front of their board of directors, I can tell you that this technique is lost on many people. Think about it. We have all watched that TV interview where the anchor rattles off a fast and multi-pronged question to the guest and the person in the hot seat quickly spouts out the first thing that pops into their head. Nine times out of ten, it is either an “umm” or a “well” and then something off topic and it takes them a while to come back on point. President Obama was a master at this. He would be asked a question and ponder it for a moment before coming up with the best words and answer possible.
If the person being interviewed would just pause for a second and take a breath, they would be much better prepared. It is amazing what can be done in a brief moment. Usain Bolt can travel nearly 13 meters in one second. Your brain can accomplish a lot in that one second. It can gather thoughts, prepare a better answer and get a point across in a more concise way. It also ensures that you won’t try to match or imitate the interviewer's pace or volume, but use your own voice at your own pace.
This works in the boardroom as well. Too often we just start spewing data and jump to our overly manicured powerpoint following the phrase - “let’s get started!” Take a breath while reading the room and gather your thoughts. You are able to choose your words more carefully and set yourself up for success. The same is true in social situations. If you are asked a question at a networking event or even your kid's tee ball game, take a second to gather your thoughts before you respond. You will be amazed how you can get more out of a conversation and steer it in a way that is advantageous for you.
In your head, that second may seem like a lifetime. Trust me, it isn’t. Your audience, whoever that may be, won’t even notice. So from now on, do yourself a favor………. breathe.