The One-Second Trick (or why great leaders and good people never seem to be in a hurry)


Every time I walk away from a conversation with my friend Danny I find myself thinking “I wish I could be more like him.”

For the longest time I couldn’t figure out what it was about Danny that made me feel this way. I just knew I wanted to be more like him. He’s got a quiet confidence about him. He holds himself well. His words seem to be chosen carefully. He never spews at the mouth like I find myself doing on occasion. Danny knows how to listen so that others feel like they’re heard. Because they are. He listens and he remembers.

Everyone knows this about Danny. They know it seconds after meeting him.

Photo of Danny playing in his band, Seedlings

Danny playing in his band, Seedlings

I want that. People tell me I have it, but I don’t have it like Danny has it. I don’t have it like my friends Greg Isenberg, Nick Seguin and Ben Milne have it.

Unbeknownst to them, I’ve studied the mannerisms of these four guys. The last time I was talking to Danny, it finally struck me.

They never appear to be in a hurry.

They’re all busier than me. They accomplished 2x or 3x more than I have by the same age. Yet they are always calm and collected. Always cool and confident. Always good listeners. Never frazzled or anxious or stuttering or impatient. Or if they are, they don’t show it.

So I tried to figure out if they had a trick or a hack for this and I think I found it.

They always pause one second before replying.

When someone is talking to them, they listen to their last word, then pause a full one or two Mis-sis-sippi, then begin speaking.

It signals that they have listened.

If you start speaking immediately, you create a perception that you’ve been waiting for the other person to finish so you could get to the important part: your opinions. You come off cocky or impatient at best.

(Photo of Obama shouting "STFU!")

I heard that Obama is a good listener.

Listening is an active thing. You can’t listen if you’re thinking about what to say next. You miss stuff. You stop “thinking in pictures”, which is how we commit things to memory. We don’t remember words very well. We remember images. Listening to that last word and continuing to “think in pictures” until they’re done will help you truly understand them and (after waiting one Mis-sis-sippi) respond intelligently.

I’m going to try my best to take a full second or two before replying. Especially to my wife.

Next time you talk to me in person let me know if you noticed anything different about my composure. After all, you are who you appear to be.

Key Thoughts to Share

  • Pause one second before replying - it signals that you have listened.  Buffer
  • You are who you appear to be.  Buffer


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