At your next meeting, wait for a pause in conversation and try to measure how long it lasts. Chances are it will be a second or two at most. Longer gaps in a discussion is often considered a perplexing or awkward pause.

And yet, knowing when to be tight-lipped can give you the upper hand in everything from sales meetings and negotiations to presentations and internal meetings.

How does the power of pause operate – and how can you master it in your next discussion?

First, pausing will avoid the risk of interrupting the person with whom you are talking if he or she has just stopped to gather his or her thoughts. When you pause for a few seconds, you often find that people will continue speaking – and thereof giving you more useful information.

Second, your silence implicitly says that you consider what people have said to be important and worthy of quiet reflection. It makes them feel more valuable and raise their self-esteem.

And third, pausing before replying will make you actually hear and understand the other person better if you give his or her words a few seconds to soak into your mind.

So, during your next conversation, pause one or two more seconds than usual – you will be amazed by how more effective your discussion will be, how you will become a more thoughtful person and, by extension, a more valuable person to work with.

Yes, silence really is golden and as Mark Twain said: “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a timed pause.

We are the sports practice of global advisory firm Burson Cohn & Wolfe. We provide strategy and communication advice for sports clients around the world. For more information: