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Take a Pause


“No word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause."

-- Mark Twain

Last week, we covered the Law of the Change-Up, which says that sameness is the death of communication.

And I told you that we'd be splitting this chapter into two parts because I wanted to focus on the power of "the pause." Silence is not something that most people, let alone communicators, are very comfortable with; it feels risky to pause and let silence reign for a moment. But there truly is power in a well-timed pause.

If you haven't read last week's post, I would recommend hitting pause on this one and going back a week, but otherwise, let's dive into why "the pause" is so significant in communication!

1. The Pause Can Emphasize What You're Saying

When communicating, the pause adds weight to what you just said. "Silence can underline an important statement." Consider, for a moment, that you just told your audience something life-changing. If you pause, it allows time for the significance to sink in. But if you drop that life-changing word and keep going, it undermines the importance of what you just said. "Any time you stop, it gets people's attention and causes them to focus on what was just said."

2. The Pause Can Give Your Audience a Chance to Catch Up

The pause can also allow your audience to stay with you and help you, as the communicator, slow down. "Don't be afraid of silence. Communication isn't meant to be an all-out sprint. It's meant to be an enjoyable journey."

3. The Pause Can Bring Your Audience Back to You

Have you ever been listening to someone and found your mind wandering? It's unrealistic to think that you will capture your audience 100% of your time; we all wander from time to time, but using the pause will help your audience refocus on what is happening. As a communicator, "you are a guide taking others on a journey. If they wander, don't plow ahead and leave them behind; wait for them. Silence draws them back to you and what you're saying."

"Silence is an act of war against the competing voices within us." -- Henri Nouwen

4. The Pause Can Point to What You're Going to Say Next

"When you stop talking for no apparent reason, your audience assumes there must be a reason. And they become very attentive." Think of it as building suspense! Something important is about to happen, and you can use the pause to make sure your audience is on the edge of their seat waiting for it.

5. The Pause Allows You to Reveal Your Emotions

"Silent moments are great opportunities to let people see your heart. If something is deeply meaningful to you when you're speaking, and it is genuinely choking you up, don't try to hide it. Simply pause until you can speak clearly." Your authenticity will allow your audience to empathize with you and connect with you on an even deeper level.

6. The Pause Allows You to Pivot to What You Want to Say Next

The pause is a great way to transition your communication from one topic or mood to another. It gives you time to transition and lets your audience stay with you on the journey without abrupt changes.

7. The Pause Allows a Listener to Hear "the Whisper"

Last but certainly not least, the pause gives your audience a moment for self-reflection. This is my favorite use of the pause and the one I use most frequently. "When you as a communicator stop speaking and allow each person to hear the whisper that can be heard only by them alone, the impact and benefit can be so much greater than any words you might say in that same moment."

This week, answer this question:

  • How can you incorporate the pause into your communication style?

  • What benefits do you think it will give your audience the most?

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