The Art of the Stall

Posted by on May 24, 2019

The Art of the Stall

I spend a lot of time with my clients talking about stalling. Stalling is part art and part science, and it’s definitely a skill you want in your toolbox.

To clarify, stalling is not procrastinating. Procrastinating is NOT doing something. You stall in order to DO something specific, and do it well.

You may want to stall if you need time to sort through your thoughts and reasoning. You got a job offer on a Thursday afternoon? Congratulations, and try, “I’d like to take the weekend to consider your offer and speak with my spouse. I will contact you on Monday.” And then, you contact the person on Monday with your answer – and your additional questions and/or requests.

You may also stall to let your emotional intensity come down if you are upset. You are in charge of your actions and responses, and you want to be proud of them. So rather than say something you’ll regret, sometimes you may need to create a gap by stalling in order to calm down. You might ask, “Could we talk about this tomorrow, please?” And yes, you will have to talk about it tomorrow.

Or, if you are a “yes” person, you might stall to buy yourself time to say a really nice “no.” It would look like this: “Let me think about that and get back to you on Tuesday.” Then you go back to the person on Tuesday and say, “I’m afraid I can’t help with that given my other priorities right now. I hope you’ll ask again if another opportunity to serve comes up in the future.”

Note that in all cases you still have to talk to the person (i.e., ghosting someone is not an artful stall!). But what you’ve done is buy yourself time to give the other person the answer that you really want to give. The stall allows you to say no politely rather than agreeing to something that you don’t want to do. It gives you time to make sure that you can craft a calm answer you’ll be proud of tomorrow. And it gives you time to go back and ask more questions or ask for better compensation rather than just agreeing to a job you’re not sure about.

Where could you use the stall? What are those conversations that tend to catch you off guard or get you in trouble? What do you need to prepare in advance and practice in order to stall effectively the next time you’re in that situation? 

Good stalling!

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