The Power of Silence in Communication reading piqued my interest this week, as this is a common function of communication, though it’s, in a way, a lack of communcation. While reading, I instinctively thought of the way President Barack Obama gave speeches during his terms. I decided to go back and watch his farwell address so that I could see how intentional or unintentional his silences actually were.
I noticed that he did use silence very intentionally to complement his message. Particulary, around the 7 minute mark he starts discussing our country’s history in democracy and the road to it. He says, “For every two steps forward, it often seems we take one step back, but the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.” Upon concluding this statement, he takes a long pause. This intentional silence gives the crowd time to process his statement and appreciate the message. I thought this to be a very tactical and effective way to use silence in communication.
Through the silence, President Obama engages the audience, more so than if he’d continued quickly onto his next point without pausing for effect. The silence in the specific example above really adds to his message, increasing the effectiveness of it. Without silence in this instance, the importance of his message might have gone unnoticed. Particularly with speeches, effective use of silence is imperitave to the speakers effectiveness, but I think this also applies to our every day conversations, where silence can serve as a vital supplement to our messages.