If there is one thing I would like to incorporate into my life with more frequency, it's the dramatic pause. You know, that moment before the commercial break when our hero says, “I know who the killer is.” But then, rather than just sharing the information, he looks around at the group with a tortured expression. And the group does not respond with “Then tell us, you jerk!” No, they stand there, looking equally tortured, but also curious. Cut to black.
I want more of that in my life. I just don’t feel like the conversations I’m having with people are dramatic enough. Take, for instance, this conversation with the Friends the other day (I’ve taken some liberties and cut it down considerably. The actual conversation lasted about 20 minutes, which I was guessing you wouldn’t want to read. Below is the main gist.):
Me: Why is it called a pair of pants when it’s only one object?
Roomie: You’re asking this again?
Friend 1: Because you have a pair of legs.
Me: It’s also called a pair of underpants and I only have one butt.
Roomie: I don’t like the word underpants.
Friend 2 (who pulled her iPhone out the second I asked the question): They were originally called a pantaloon with each leg being referred to as a pant. Hence, two pant legs.
Me: Then that’s what we should call them.
Friend 1: Pant legs?
Me: Exactly, it’s more accurate. Next time I go shopping I’m going to ask them to point me in the direction of their pant legs.
Roomie: I’m not going shopping with you anymore.
I greatly appreciated Friend 2’s research and response (particularly since Roomie no longer pays attention to these questions). However, wouldn’t it have brought the drama to 10, if she’d just said, “I know why it’s a pair of pants!” and then left us waiting breathlessly for five minutes of messages from our commercial sponsors?
Now, I know people who integrate the dramatic pause into their conversational style rather seamlessly. Everyone, I would guess, has at some point had the coworker or friend who would use it with reckless abandon.
Example the first:
Coworker: “I know why it smells like smoke in here.”
You: “Oh, I hadn’t really noticed. Is everything all right?”
Coworker: “Not exactly… (dramatic pause lasting upwards of fifteen seconds) …someone left a hot pocket in the break room toaster oven.”
Example the second:
Friend: “Sorry I’m late.”
You: “Yeah, I heard there was an accident. Big traffic back-up.”
Friend: “No, that wasn’t it…..(you could go grab a soda during the break)…… I didn't leave until later than I planned.”
Every time someone utilizes the dramatic pause, the stakes immediately rise. As the seconds go by, you find yourself leaning in, breathing more quietly, shushing everyone else in the room. Because if someone’s going to wait this long to finish a sentence, they’re not going to want to speak it above the tone of a reverent whisper. And when they finally do, you feel like you’ve been let in on a special secret. One that only you, and the other twenty people in the room, know. You feel your wait has been vindicated and you stride into the day with greater purpose and drive, only later – when the euphoria wears off – wondering why in all of hell you were so fascinated by such meaningless news.
And don’t we all want more of this in our lives? That sweet feeling of jubilation melting into befuddlement? I know I do.
It’s something I plan on working towards and I encourage you all to join me. In the mean time, I don’t plan on talking to you again…….
(Do you see what I did there?? Paused, in a dramatic type fashion. It has begun!)