The Contemplative Pause

These thoughts were originally posted at http://ardentdev.com in 2014. I’ve moved them here in order to repurpose that domain for a software development podcast.


I have come to truly appreciate a pause after someone has finished speaking. It (often) means that people are genuinely listening and then taking time to mentally compose a response. The pause is indicative of thoughtful listening. A meeting characterized by people talking over each other or a series of monologues has a lot of content but dubious value if others are busy preparing their own remarks instead of listening.

Of course the pause can also mean people simply aren’t engaged in the conversation. Laptops and smart phones in meetings lead to a culture of partial attention that is destructive to thoughtful discourse. People tune out the conversation then perk up when they hear their name or some other trigger word, asking the speaker to repeat what he/she just said. Then someone who wasn’t really listening jumps into the middle of the conversation, leading to dumb comments or dumb decisions. If I offered to significantly reduce the IQ of all the people on your project, you probably wouldn’t take me up on it. But we inflict the same consequence on ourselves voluntarily (see: Multitasking Is Making You Stupid).

My wife, who tends to be more extroverted than me, would say that many extroverts need to talk through their thinking process so my appreciation for the contemplative pause is biased because of my more introverted personality. Maybe. I’ll have to think about.

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