The Key To Understanding

I lived in Madrid for about four years and when I first moved it wasn’t that I couldn’t understand the language it was the speed at which Spaniards talked that threw me.


The rhythm of their words and the cadence of their interactions had me feeling like I was at a tennis match.


“Could you repeat that slowly” was a phrase I said again and again. And while sometimes it didn’t work other times it did, and when the pace slowed, there were gaps in the words, white space between the text that gave me the time I needed to understand. The time required for me to give a response instead of freezing with anxiety and saying yes or no to a question I didn’t get.


This was something I noticed because I was living in a foreign language, but rarely took into account when speaking in English. The pace of a conversation, the flow of one word to the next is something easy to overlook but is a technique for communicating in a kind, honest, and helpful way.


We can use the rhythm of our conversation to help ourselves and others not only pay attention to our words, but also to help us understand them and their power.


Slowing down is not easy to do. And there are many reasons we don’t do it that range from it feeling awkward to believing we’re holding others up or thinking we’re giving the impression that we don’t know what we’re talking about or knowledgeable of a subject.


Slow isn’t something cultivated in our culture. We want to be the first to know an answer, the fastest at solving a problem.


I saw double up until I was around eleven and because I had a learning disability I was labeled a “slow learner”. Because this made me different, all I wanted was to be like everyone else. To be able to look over notes an hour before a test and ace it like my friends. I wanted to watch a demonstration and be able to mimic it right away – I wanted to be fast. But anytime I tried to be quick I’d get it wrong and I’d have to try again and again and again.


It wasn’t until I learned that the key to understanding was to slow down that my interactions began to change and also how I handled and approached difficult situations, when problems needed to be solved. If I went slowly I would most of the time know how to respond.


To give ourselves and others time to speak in a way that’s kind, honest, and helpful we need to slow down the pace of our exchanges. Think of it like trying to take off a bracelet that is caught on itself – I can pull it; I can go fast and try to untie it but sometimes doing this I make it worse, but when I slow down my action and I give myself time to see the situation for what it is that’s when I can respond accordingly.


Try slowing down your conversations and see how this changes your interactions.


Anytime you feel rushed to respond, take a beat, take a breath, ask yourself if what you have to say is kind, honest, and helpful, and then respond.


Whenever you feel rushed and you don’t know how to respond you can say, “You know what, I need more time to think about this.” Or “Let me get back to you after I’ve thought a bit more about it.” Or you can say, “I don’t know how to respond to that.”


My go to phrases to help me remember that I can slow down are:

  • I have time to know what I want to say
  • I have time to choose my words
  • I feel free to take my time in responding
  • I have more than enough time to respond
  • I may not know how to respond and that’s okay


You have permission to take your time, because by taking your time you’re helping yourself and others interact in a kind, honest, and helpful way.

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