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Harness the Power of the Pause


I’m excited to share this guest post by Mark Hopkins to celebrate the launch of his book, Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap For An Exceptional Career. Mark is a gifted writer with powerful and actionable strategies for anyone looking for greater success and satisfaction.

We live in a world that communicates in small bursts and at the speed of light. Because of the flood of information we are inundated with, we jump from receiving to reacting, without even a moment of pause between the two. But it is in that moment that you can change relationships and create opportunities by taking the differentiating approach of responding thoughtfully, and showing that you genuinely care. Your Personal satisfaction and influence will both sky rocket. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Get your filters working. You will need to clear the information decks to make time for the stuff that really matters (Steps 2-4). I’m sure you have a good spam filter, but go beyond this to avoid even opening a well meaning e-mail from an associate or industry source whose subject could be translated into something like “Contains Well-meaning but Worthless Information”. Save this type of e-mail for the rainy day that never comes.

Step 2: Be a world-class listener. Every time you are hearing or reading information from a person you care about, focus on it. Take your self-focused lens and turn it around. Read an email completely; don’t just read the first sentence and assume you know where it’s going. When somebody is talking to you about a subject that is important, don’t multitask.

Step 3: Pause. Think about the source of the information. What is the issue at hand and how does it look to that person? What is her perspective? What does this person need? How does she prefer to communicate? Unless it’s a complete stranger, you can come up with the answers to these questions fairly quickly, usually in a matter of seconds. Integrate what you’ve heard and what you know with your own experience. Consider how your insights allow you to add meaning to the subject or help solve a problem.

Step 4: Offer clear, thoughtful ideas and communication in response. Provide a response that gives the person what she needs and shows her that you’ve listened carefully and care enough to consider the issue from more than one angle, your own. Your response will be more meaningful than anything else she receives that day, increasing her perception of your intelligence and ability to add value.

Does it take more time to communicate this way? A little. But, in my experience, you are better off taking the extra ten to fifteen seconds to frame your answer with the recipient in mind, with a goal of adding value. Your response will be level, valid, and will build trust by reinforcing that you care enough to supply a thoughtful answer.

Think about it the next time you are about to fire off a cryptic and less-than-helpful e-mail. Instead take the approach that is more personally satisfying and raises your perceived value.

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy. After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and microlending in the developing world. He is a member of the Chief Executives Organization, a partner in Social Venture Partners’ Boulder-chapter, and is on the board of governors for Opportunity International. He regularly leads YPO Global Leadership Workshops around the world.


Shortcut to Prosperity can be purchased from and through all major booksellers.


  1. Thank you for this, it is so true. Sometimes a person will respond to the first part of a message based on previous discussion and even incidents with the sender and respond without getting to the core of the message or enquiry. I, (being an introvert) ususally do not repsond immediately but like to think about what is asked, then read the message again to make sure I do get the gist of it, and then reply, It may take an hour or sometimes even longer but it has helped me to put hting into persepctive before sending an answer that was not well thought through.

    • That sounds like a really good practice, Erika… and one that many of us would benefit from. Thanks for passing it along!


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