Before we dig in and pretend we’re at the beach and peeing in the water, let’s send sunny Canadian love to America, okay? Those boys and girls need some mask-wearing cheering. My goodness.

If you’re a full-time chatterbox, raise your hand.

Do you own a megaphone? I do. And yes, you can borrow it. But later.

How about when you’re nervous? Do you start to ramble, roll… and (so cute!) stutter?

On the speaking circuit the “power of the pause” is comedic gold when delivering a punchline.

But the pause is more than a party.

When you’re sending out a 1-2-3 punch of emotion and drama, there’s nothing like a silent room to increase the tension, reflection and <wait for it> connection.

I speak fast. (Grammar gods and goddesses: yes, I know. That’s incorrect grammar. You’re welcome to speak to the manager.)

I eat fast. Drink fast. Walk fast. Sleep fast. Laugh fast. Drive fast. Get impatient fast.

You get the idea.

But on stage? I speak very, very slowly. I slow right down, and it’s a relief to feel that grounded to the moment and to the audience.

If I know my opener and close, I’m one cool Irish cucumber.

But if I don’t know what the heck is going on inside my heart, head and out there in the crowd, well…I’m dead.

And the audience? Forgetaboutit. They’re bored, baby, bored.

The power of the pause is a life-line when you are not fully in command of your mood, movements and metabolism (you feel fat) on page AND stage.

Have you noticed that when a teacher is teaching, they do the majority of the talking?

(Oh, in case you need a reminder: a teacher is a professional within an educational establishment. The building usually smells like old boots, sweaty boys and beige food. In the olden days, long before a monster called Covid came to town, children and young adults used to leave the house and take their screaming squealing voices to s-c-h-o-o-l!)

Back to the lesson. When teachers teach, they talk. A lot.

But during test time, how’s the noise level? That’s right. Silent.

There’s no talking during a test.

Students wanting to show they’ve “learned the lesson(s)” need silence to reflect, remember and, like it or not, regurgitate and repeat.

Same goes for writing. But way more glamorous and deep, darling.

When we write on the page – or “on air” as we walk, sleep, toilet or bubble bath – taking a pause from inner noise helps us clear and hear the lesson.

We look back at “stuff” and then we can look forward with new vision.

A pause from noise invites us to look beyond the mess and feel the message: what do I really want to say? What do I really know is true? What’s one thing/fact/attitude/skillset/mindset/rayllying cry/manifesto/promise/behaviour that can make people feel better and less alone?

What do I really want my audience to know? To feel? To do?

(To my long-time One-Minute Story Tip crew, I love you and yes: that’s the FTD Rule – what do you want your readers or listeners to Feel, Think, Do?)

Taking a pause on stage, or while sitting/standing and speaking, calms your nervous system down, baby, down.

If you’re nervous, you slow down because your beautiful heart has slowed down and you’re breathing a bit more deeply. (Air is good. Write that down.)

If you’re confused, a pause from speaking positions you as a cool cat or alpha dog. You calmly collect your thoughts while looking like a queen or king (not a deer in headlights!).

If you really, really, really HATE public speaking and wish a torpedo would land on your spotlight, taking a pause from your remarks inspires “lighthouse people” to lean in and send encouragement and smiles your way.

Remember, most people have tremendous respect for anyone speaking publicly (unless you’re a politician).

We want our speakers – especially our Story Sisters – to succeed up there because we see ourselves in you. We know it takes guts, grit and a splash of crazy to open that hole in our face and say something messy, meaningful and filled with pauses, potholes and… passion.
So take a pause the next time you’re scared on page or stage. Get grounded in what’s perking up inside of you. And go forth, brave heart.

Happy Canada Day to the Canucks + Happy Independence Day to the Yanks,

♥ Shannon

p.s. If you were wondering, yes, this tip totally applies to life in lockdown. Our lives are still on a type of pause. There is a time for teaching and talking. And there is a time for silence and test taking. We are still quiet or at least not as loud as we were. What lessons have you learned so far? Where are you drawing a blank? This quiet “test” on being human is a relatively perfect time to take a pause and look beyond the mess and feel the message waiting to emerge from you for us. More Light!

And wash your hands.