Anyone who has ever done public speaking understands the importance of breath control. The ability to regulate your inhales and exhales can help with your delivery. It always helps to take a deep breath before you speak.

That’s a great tip for speeches, but too frequently it’s an often overlooked practice in our interpersonal communications.

How often do we not pause and think before opening our mouths?

When we’re in the midst of an intense conversation, or when someone says something that triggers us, emotions can start running high. That’s the most important time to bite our tongues for a moment.

Writing on PsychCentral, Dr. John Amodeo, a California therapist, notes that our sympathetic nervous system reacts immediately to real or imagined dangers. Our instinct is fight or flight. While someone is talking and things start to get hot, we’re often thinking of how to get in the next jab or how to defend ourselves.

“One of the hardest things to do when we’re activated is to slow down,” writes Dr. Amodeo.

This can work to cool down arguments, but it’s also a sound strategy for more effective communications overall.

In the workplace, people who take just a two-second pause before speaking can come across as more approachable, confident and engaged, says Jeff Black, who runs a leadership development company in South Carolina.

“We are constantly on the move today,” Black told CNBC. “We walk too fast. We talk too fast. We cut people off in meetings before they have really finished. We start answering before someone even finished asking the question. When we do all of that, we look incredibly rushed. We look frantic. We look like everything is a crisis.”

Take a brief moment just to reflect. Talk less and listen more.

A slight breather can change the entire tone of a conversation. It can prevent you from being rash. That applies to not just face-to-face encounters and calls, but to any form of communications, from texts to tweets.

Do you T.H.I.N.K. before you speak? I’ve seen that acronym explained like this. Is what you’re about to say:

  • True
  • Helpful
  • Inspirational
  • Necessary
  • Kind

If the answer is now, hit pause. Communications is a give and take. Give people a break by taking a breath.

With that, I’ll sign off on my blog for 2019. See you in 2020. Over the holidays, I hope you all have a chance to unwind and take a breath too.

Stuart Foxman is a Toronto-based freelance writer, who helps clients’ products, services, ideas and organizations to come alive. Follow me on Twitter @StuartFoxmanconnect with me here on LinkedIn, or check me out at I would love to hear from you. More articles like this coming, with original posts every week about communications, information, motivation, writing, branding, creativity, media, marketing, persuasion, messages, learning, etc.

December 18, 2019

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