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Using Pauses


Techniques > Use of Language > Persuasive Language > Using Pauses

Method | Example | Discussion | See also



Pauses can be added in many places to add impact to your communications.

  • Pause after somebody has spoken and before you speak.
  • Pause before a punchline or particularly important point to increase tension and add Emphasis. Pausing at irregular points can also increase tension.
  • Pause after a punchline or important points in order to let it sink in.
  • Pause between a request phrase and command phrase in the same request sentence.
  • Combine pauses with dramatic action, such as uncovering a new product, pointing to something important, etc.
  • Use hesitation devices such as 'ers' and 'ums' to prevent people from interrupting during the pause.
  • Use Body Language signals to emphasize the pause. A simple way of doing this is to freeze the body, perhaps with an expectant expression on your face. Knowing smiles and looking around whilst making eye-contact also is effective.
  • In written text, use commas, colons, semicolons, dashes, periods and ellipsis to introduce delay.

When you do use pauses, ensure it is worth the wait. If the outcome does not match the drama, you will cause disillusionment and disappointment, as well as losing credibility.

Pauses should not be vocalized, for example filling the space with 'ummm'. A complete silence can be much more powerful, especially if combined with a composed and steady body posture.

Beware of using pauses too much, as this can tip the tension over into irritation.


And here it is ... the birthday cake!

Can you please...sit down.

There are people here ... and they know who they are ... oh, yes ... who are ready to make real changes today.


It is easy when talking to talk faster and without pauses, perhaps because you do not want others to interrupt or maybe because you just want to get it over and done with. But if it means people stop listening or do not really understand, then you may miss your persuasive goals.

Pausing after someone has spoken show respect to the other person, indicating that you are taking into account their ideas (this is particularly important in Japanese culture).

When you pause in the middle of a sentence, you trigger needs for completion, thus increasing tension.

A pause between a request and a command separates them, making the command more powerful whilst retaining the polite overall framing of a request.

Matching body language with the pause creates alignment and hence increases trust. Mixing body language and speech creates mixed messages and the opposite effect.

Normal speech contains around four or five pauses per minute. If you want to sound normal, match this. If you do not, you may sound manipulative.

See also

Tension principle, Using emphasis, Using punctuation, Short Pauses, Pausing, Delaying


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