Think Then Speak

Post by: Tom Schin
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Having discussions with strangers bears some level of stress. For some, it’s very little stress and they don’t give it a second thought. For others, its high stress. You could be of the type who talks nervously about random things (like watching

Steve Rogers talk to Agent Carter in the cab before he turns into Captain America). Other people try to interject things so that they can feel like they’re a part of the conversation (which can either lead to know-it-all syndrome or the opposite). The problem arises when you’re filling the conversation without relevance to the main discussion.

As a child, playing Dungeons and Dragons (yes, one of those – think Stranger Things kind of kid), I thought it was great to imagine my grown up self in a suit of armor, waiting to kill an Ogre or a Giant, so you’d say, “I run into the cave with my sword out” – and the Dungeon Master would say, “sorry, you fell into a trap, landed on a spike and died,” or “An assassin was waiting around the corner, he stabs you with a knife and takes all your gold AND… you died,” or “you enter the cave, a giant dragon breathes fire on you and…. you die.”

None of that is going to happen to you in an job interview, but I had to learn at 10 or 11 years of age that I needed to stop opening my mouth every time I thought I wanted to jump into action. I learned to slow my brain down, pause, let other things occur, observe, and then process the situation a little more rationally. I still died frequently (being 10), but a bit less frequently than I did when I started. It was nerves. I didn’t know what to do with it and had to learn the hard way that not all situations require me to open my mouth and interject this or that. Fortunately, I learned all of that before I had to interview for jobs.

As a job seeker, you should realize that silence is ok.  Not too much silence that it’s deafening, but the awkward pause is certainly a point to sit and reflect quietly about what comes next. Applicants get nervous, interviewers a little less so (as they’re in the seat of power), but still some level of nerves. It takes some practice to be comfortable with it all. As an interviewer, I like to sit back and listen. See what applicants talk about or volunteer. Are they a nervous talker?  Do they bring up things about themselves that might indicate that they’re a great fit, or a non-fit for a particular role? It’s always enlightening.

Your lesson is to pause, reflect, listen and observe. It helps to have prepared some notes, questions, thoughts ahead of the interview. That will guide you in your discussion so you keep yourself on task. If you tend to make the awkward joke, make a note on your pad to say “NO AWKWARD JOKES” with a smiley face.  This sort of lesson repeats itself over and over throughout your job process – interviews, job offers, promotions, general work place conversation and beyond. It’s ok to not always have a comment. Just learn to look before you leap. Once you’re comfortable not landing in the cave with the dragon, you’ll be set for the future. You’ll carry yourself with a little more confidence in how to handle those, once awkward, conversations with a little more ease, which is the goal.