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Westside Toastmasters is located in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, California

CHAPTER 27

The Eloquence of Silence

He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.

  -- ELBERT HUBBARD

In the early days of his presidency, George W. Bush was judged to be a rather poor speaker. Sometimes it was almost painful to watch his bungled attempts to get his message across in his prepared speeches. Something happened along the way that improved his ability to speak more effectively. His aides hired some of the top speech-writers in the business. But in addition to better speech material, there was something else. He learned to speak with greater clarity and impact by using pauses, even if they were used too often at times. The change was significant and approval ratings for his speech delivery rose.

Pausing gives a person time to think, to keep control of the content, and it gives the audience a chance to relate to what's being said. You can become a better speaker simply by pausing for a second or two at various intervals during your delivery.

It is during the silences that your listeners will have the chance to reflect on what you say. They are able to picture in their minds what you are talking about. They have the opportunity to weigh your meaning, to connect and respond to your feelings.

In addition, pauses allow listeners to have an inner dialogue with you. They actually talk in their heads expressing their inner thoughts. As a listener, haven't you often found yourself saying things in your head like, "I disagree," or "What a good idea," or "I read something about that," etc.? The more inner dialogue you inspire, the stronger your connection with your listeners will be.

Here is an important secret about the art of speaking well: You can't go wrong with silence. Even if you don't always pick the ideal place for a silence, your listener won't know the difference -- he will be too involved with you and what you are saying. In a conversation, nobody thinks, "Now, wait a minute, that pause was in the wrong place."

Your Tools for Charming Others

Practice pausing at the end of a thought, or just after having made a key point. This technique helps a listener to know where one thought ends and another begins.

Remember to pause especially after you've said something important, complicated, or unusual. Let the listener digest what you've said while giving yourself time to think and to breathe.

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