The Silent Pause

Mastering the Silent Pause
Delivered to Classic City Toastmasters
Athens, Georgia
by Jack Thomas

August 25, 2006

(Hold up GPS)

With this simple little GPS – which stands for Global Positioning System — I’ve flown all over the Southeast. And I always knew exactly where I was and where I was going.

Over the past four decades, piece by piece I’ve put together an “emotional positioning system” for human behavior. This Psychoharmonics system just as accurately tells me where I am emotionally, and where I’m going to end up if I continue in that direction. It’s all very predictable – if you have the right formula and use it. If I stuff my GPS in my flight bag, I could get lost very quickly. The same happens with my emotions if I ignore the principles of Psychoharmonics.

The basic element of Psychoharmonics is the lowly goal. All behavior has a goal, and every time you set a goal, it creates a little tension in your mind and body. It’s like winding up the rubber band of an old-fashioned toy airplane. The tension is what motivates us to move forward and achieve the goal we’ve set.

Of course, if you wind that rubber band too tight, it can break. The same is true of that little rubber band in your head. We let our tension get out of hand and it turns into stress. Stress is just pathological tension. It’s tension that hurts.

What causes stress? One of the most useful discoveries of Psychoharmonics was that all stress is caused by the harboring in your own mind of one or more impossible goals.

Now, I’m not talking about improbable goals. It’s improbable that I could be elected President of the United States, but it’s not impossible.

An impossible goal is one that cannot be achieved because of time, space, or circumstances. I can’t do anything yesterday, or even a second ago. I can’t be here now and somewhere else now. I can’t set goals for anybody or anything else. I can set goals only for me.

The beauty of knowing what causes stress is that you then know how to eliminate it: You simply identify and cancel all impossible goals that you’re vainly trying to achieve and – lo and behold – the stress goes away. You then can put that previously wasted energy into good, positive goals that can be achieved.

And that brings me to the topic I want to discuss with you today:

Some years ago, I worked as an International Economic Developer for the State of Georgia. I entertained business executives from all over the world and helped them to find a location for their office or manufacturing plant. One gentleman called me on a regular basis to arrange trips for his various clients. I’ll change the name to avoid any possibility of embarrassment, but here is basically how he began every telephone conversation:

“Uhhhhhh, Meester Thomas, uhhhhhh Harikari here, uhhhhh Bank of…..Japan.” Having learned English as an adult, he was having to laboriously translate one word at a time from his native Japanese into English.

But why all the uhs?

As with most of us, when we have somebody’s attention – when somebody is listening to us as you’re now listening to me – we feel compelled to have all of that time and space filled with some kind of noise. If we can’t think of the right words immediately, then to achieve our goal, we fill the space with uhs or some other junk words.

Some people use “you know,” “like,” “I mean,” and other audible pauses. They’re all equally annoying, and they detract from a speaker’s effectiveness.

If you start really listening to people being interviewed on the radio or on television, you’ll see how prevalent the uh-virus is.

President Bush is a major sufferer, and it seriously and dangerously detracts from his credibility. His Secretary of State has the same problem, as do many of his other staffers. Who knows, maybe they’re trying to flatter the boss by imitating him.

Even seasoned reporters with eight-figure salaries get bitten by the uh-bug when they don’t have a script to read.

Sometimes, the only way you can become aware of how big a problem you have with audible pauses is to record yourself and then play the tape back. Students in a class I taught recently were amazed at how many uhs they were using.

With some people, uhs are used almost like punctuation. They’re not even aware they’re doing it. They use uhs as commas and periods. “And-duhs” take the place of semicolons. As with children who’ve learned to speak from poorly educated parents, the uhs are just a bad habit. Fortunately, though, habits can be changed.

So, what do you do to eliminate the uh-habit? There is one quick and simple way: just cancel the goal to have all the space filled with noise. That’s it! Then you set the goal to relax and be comfortable with silent pauses. Once you mentally commit to that good, positive goal and start practicing it every time you open your mouth, you’ll find that the habitual uhs soon are gone with the wind.

If I’ve piqued your interest with this “wee bit o’ wisdom that’s been wandering the streets looking for a home,” I have good news for you. To learn more about the Psychoharmonics system for understanding and controlling your own emotions, just go to my website at It’s all there – and it’s…uhhhh….free!


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