Slow Down

For every speech I gave throughout school and college, inevitably the feedback would include “slow down!” I have a tendency to rush (in everything…) but especially when I am sharing a lot of information at once.

In my work, I spend a lot of time sharing information about our experiential learning program. Recently, I was in an external review meeting with a few professors, one of which was a gentleman from the South. As we started chatting, I noticed that the pace of this group was a bit slower and relaxed. I started telling them about our program and what we do for students. I give this talk so often that I can easily spout off our elevator speech plus the value of the program, the process, how we educate students, etc. etc. But this time, I took a deep breath and I slowed down. I shared the information piece by piece and allowed time for discussion throughout the meeting, rather than giving them all the information at once and then allowing time for questions at the end. It not only was a great conversation but the group had really nice things to say about us at the end of the review.

That same week, I sat in on a presentation in which the presenter said “Don’t give them all the information at once. Just give them enough to ask the next question.” His point was that people want simple. In this age of information overload, it can be hard to process all that is thrown our way.

This resonated with me for many reasons, but my recent interaction with the professor from the South reminded me of the value of this. So often, I am rushing through my ‘spiel‘ so that I make sure I answer all the listener’s questions before they ask them. But why? I took a moment to ask myself why I’ve felt that questions were a bad thing or an indicator of my performance. I realized that if someone asked a question, I thought that it meant that I didn’t do a good enough job of addressing the details.

But…I’m an educator, we encourage questions! It means they’re listening. It means they’re thinking. It means they’re processing the information!  So why rush through it? Why not allow time for the listener to process the information, why not encourage questions and discussion? We may have the answers. We may want to provide the answers before the other person even thinks of the question, but it doesn’t serve the learning process, and heck – it can be stressful to try to get all the information in at once.

So instead of rushing through the information, I am going to slow down. And when I get a question, instead of worrying that I didn’t address it yet, I’m going to say, “Great question. I’m so glad you asked that.”

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