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The Unusual Pause Technique

July 14, 2009

There’s an old saw that says there are two kinds of people in the world: those who say there are two kinds of people in the world…and those who don’t.

In that vein, I’d like to remark that there are two kinds of speakers in the world: those whose use unusual pauses…and those who don’t.

The next time you’re watching or listening to your favorite talking heads, notice whether the speakers pause at appropriate or inappropriate spots. Here are two examples of what I’m talking about. I’ll use the same sentence in both cases so that the unusual pauses stand out.

Speaker Number One: “I’m happy you asked me that question, Biff.” (Pause.) “For 30 years, (pause) I’ve been analyzing data from Wall Street.” (Pause.) “I’ve found that there are certain companies who benefit from economic bubbles.” (Pause.)

Speaker Number Two: “I’m happy you asked me that question Biff for 30 years I’ve been (pause) analyzing data from Wall Street I’ve found that there are certain companies who (pause) benefit from economic bubbles.”

I believe people use this strategy when they don’t want to get interrupted. I’ve heard speakers on both the right and the left use this technique, either consciously or unconsciously. But unfortunately, I’ve also begun to hear this from some of my favorite radio personalities who do voiceovers for commercials in which there’s no pause from beginning to end.

Of course, the term “fast-talker” has been around a long time. Fast talking is just an extreme version of The Unusual Pause Technique because it relies on speaking an entire paragraph or two without taking a normal pause.

I hope this trend of relying on The Unusual Pause Technique backfires. Frankly, I instinctively want to distrust whoever uses it, regardless of motive.

I prefer listening to speakers who honor the short pause of the comma and the long pause of the period.

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One comment

  1. You know, I’ve never really noticed the use of pauses before (unless they’re incredibly dramatic). I’ll pay more attention now … interesting!



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