April 15, 2009

Silence speaks louder than words

We recently watched "Marathon Man," and I was reminded of one of my favorite qualities of Dustin Hoffman's acting: stillness.

Some actors never gain the ability to be still. They, like many speakers, feel that the more they move and the more they speak, the more they express. But there are actors like Dustin Hoffman and Clint Eastwood, right off the top of my head, who are masters of stillness. They speak volumes without a motion or sound.

This is hard to do. Many of us are uncomfortable with silence and stillness. We feel we have to fill it with sound and movement; we have to keep going or we'll somehow lose the audience.

But stillness is a tool, just like movement and voice, and being willing to use it will increase your effectiveness as a speaker in giving your audience an opportunity to process your words, and perhaps to experience a profound moment of understanding.

I have one other thing to say about Dustin Hoffman. He's got a tic or a twitch, where sometimes he moves his lips when he's not actually saying anything. You might find this annoying, and you might not notice it at all. But the truth is, it has never hurt his career.

His brilliant performances override any peculiar involuntary movements of his face and, for that matter, his twitches are part of who he is. They are part of what makes him unique as an actor and a person.

Now I know I recently wrote about tics as distractions, and it's a risk you take as a speaker or performer not to pay attention to any tics you might have. If they are distracting more than charming, or if you are not an effective, engaging speaker, your tics will indeed be a problem.

But as I always say, it's important to embrace your uniqueness, and if your little twitches are unobtrusive enough and you can carry your audience successfully, then you will have little to worry about. As I mentioned in this post, I have a lisp, and it's never, ever been a problem for me.

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6 comments. Please add yours! :

Ivan Zugec said...

Great post.

I know that adding pauses to a speech can really help carry your message and it also give you a chance as a speaker to relax for a moment.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

True, Ivan. There are so many good reasons for taking that extra breath!

Stevie King said...

When working with a new speaker I often mention to them that their silence is just as important as their words. I, myself, tend to wander when I am not concentrating on being deliberate with my motions.

Great post!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Concentration and focus are a big part of stillness. Hard to be still when your mind is all over the place!

Steve Arrowood said...

Great post. I appreciate your awareness of what makes impact in communication.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you, Steve! And thanks for stopping by. :-)

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