The Art of Speaking is the Art of Pausing.
Every verbal attempt has a rhythm and a tempo, very much like music does.
Context and Premise: Beyond presence and talent, good speaking is viewed as a verbal art form. Elocution, diction, projection and modulation, to only name a few elements, are believed to be the obvious and essential ingredients to a good presentation or performance. So much more goes into good speaking, but it is important to try to pierce the myth of verbal life.
With verbal power comes the undeniable importance of skills in the arenas of intentions, staging, presence, experience and message. All these aspects have two dynamics in common: space and time. On a practical level, time is punctuated by silence or pauses. Firing content at an audience or in a one-on-one conversation spells disaster and can be very annoying.
Every verbal attempt has a rhythm and a tempo, very much like music does. A happy balance between sound and silence creates harmony in music. That is what creates the mood of a musical piece and that of all verbal communications.
Spoken language is organized and governed by time (rhythm, phrasing, and pauses) and by melody (pitch, intonation, and inflection.)
The silence or pause is an interruption of the sound. Without it, there would either only be sound or nothing at all. Individuals and audiences alike feel, think, and listen during the pause. Ideas and talent are grasped at the pause or during the silence of your performance.
Good speakers verify at each pause if their message is getting across. They adjust based on what they find at the pause. It is impossible to listen to anything that contains no pause or silence. It is so obvious one could not even put it to the test. Well, try focusing on your dissertation while a baby is screaming its head off next to you on an airplane :)
The magic of subtext.
Pauses are the oxygen of all verbal communications, from one-on-one chitchat to full-scale great speeches or performances. Pausing, therefore, is the art of creating silence so people can understand the meaning of what you are doing and saying.
Only pauses are “pregnant” with the magic of subtext: what you are feeling, thinking and experiencing but are NOT SAYING! In my view, it is essential to understand pausing as the ultimate technique to get your messages and ideas across.
Remember that people cannot hear you when you speak but only when you stop speaking; it is the “interruption that creates the possibility of understanding.” I find that assertion very amusing because most people want to become better speakers or deliver their lines with power. Well, if you become a better “pauser”, you’ll be a better “actor” and a much better speaker. The two are intimately connected.
All pauses are pregnant with content. You can intimidate with pauses, or you can impact tactfully with them. It is more than a craft. Watch people who pause a lot and, consequently, hold your attention. It is because they pause intentionally.
The truth of any relationship is lodged in the silence between two people. What takes place in the silence is incredibly revealing. When you send e-mail to someone, and they do not write back after they receive it, it creates “communication in the silence.” More is said in the silence or subtext in communication situations than in the speaking. The speaking shines as a consequence of the pauses; therefore, the art of pause is the true engine behind all successful communications.
Beware of control
Silence is a controlling mechanism, but when used properly, it will command anyone’s attention within moments. We’ve all been in situations where we are being stared down or sized up. I’d like to bring to your attention that it feels doubly awkward when nothing is said during those friendly controlling “procedures.” That’s what makes them difficult to bear.
How do I practice the art of pause? By listening actively at every pause you intentionally make. One listens, sustains, and contemplates at pauses. One listens to: impact, mood, thoughts, feelings, adjustments to be made, etc.
It takes courage to listen to silence and demonstrates the maturity of the performer. Once you begin making pauses the heart of your craft consistently, you’ll find that all your questions are answered there.
For example, if you want to know how any relationship is really going, listen to what is taking place in the silence when you are with that person. You will hear everything they feel and think. If you have the courage to confront the content of silence, you will become present to a whole new level of understanding your craft.
Wishing you continued success,