August 5; More Is Said In The Silence
MANAGEMENT BY THE BOOK:
365 Daily Bible Verse &
One-Minute Management Lessons For The Busy Faithful

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Chapter Eight: Communication; 5 August

…but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Proverbs 11:12b

More Is Said In The Silence

Stop

Mitt Romney walked to the podium. A noisy crowd was shouting encouragement as he was considering a run for president. The sweating mass would not hush but Romney would not be rushed. He smiled and let the loud rollicking continue.

But he did have a speech to give.

He stood at the microphone and smiled at the throng. He waited. Silent. It was a pregnant pause because something good was going to happen.

The practiced Massachusetts governor did not speak until the room exhausted itself and went silent; waiting on his words.

As eloquent as he was with the use of words, he was even better with the use of silence. William Shakespeare said, “I stand in pause where I shall first begin.” Napoleon would wait and hold for 40 seconds before beginning a speech. This is command presence.

***

Author James C. Humes in Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers, would call this silence the “Power Pause.” It takes self-confidence and like all public speaking, it takes practice.

Your Business Professor was once coached by an executive search firm for an interview. The counselor advised me to appropriately pause. I don’t remember if I got the job.

But I. Would. Remember. Making. Every. Dramatic. Pause.

It felt funny the first time. James Humes calls this using a “Strategic Silence.”

The silence would only last for four seconds and in practicing the speech the speaker should count out: one thousand and one, one thousand and two… It will feel like eternity. Four seconds is usually enough to quiet your group and get their attention. If for no other reason, people will look at you to learn if you are having a heart attack.

Because that’s what it feels like.

I have experimented on the four-second-silent-rule with my classes and it works. Four seconds of quiet from a professor is exactly how long it takes a student to stop texting and look up from his iPhone.

James Humes writes,

Before you speak, try to lock your eyes on each of your soon-to-be listeners. Force yourself before you begin your presentation to say in your own mind each word of your opening sentence. Every second you wait will strengthen the impact of your opening words. Make your Power Pause your silent preparation before any presentation you make.

Stand, stare, and command your audience, and they will bend their ears to listen. Humes, James C. (2009-02-19). Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers (Kindle Locations 149-150). Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The Army Chief of Staff during WWII, General George Marshall, used this ‘silent treatment.’ When starting a meeting,

Portrait: US Army (USA) General (GEN) George C. Marshall. (Uncovered), (Exact date shot UNKNOWN).

Portrait: US Army (USA) General (GEN) George C. Marshall. (Uncovered), (Exact date shot UNKNOWN).

“Marshall said nothing. He simply gazed across the room…above his glasses, not saying a word or making a gesture. It was a well known Marshall ploy….a stranger to it [would feel that] he had to fill the silence somehow and rush on…”  George Marshall, Organizer of Victory, page 370.

Use silence before beginning a talk, silence before answering a question and silence before beginning a new thought.

And finally, don’t step on your laugh lines. Stop and wait for the reaction. Jack Benny, the famed vaudeville-radio-television funnyman, had impeccable comedic timing. At the punch line of a joke he would stop.

And wait.

And bring his hand to his face and scan the audience until they got the joke and the crowd laughed together.

***

Romney ran for president and did not win. The other candidate with even better oratory skills won…but the one who has understanding holds their tongue, Proverbs 11:12b

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