For the Grown-Ups
The Power of the Pause

The Power of the Pause

One of the most powerful storytelling techniques used by storytellers and teachers and presenters around the world is, ironically, not talking. Silence. Stillness. A Pause.

When we tell a story, we are planting seeds for images that will grow in the listener. We sow them left and right – here there and everywhere and if you’ve ever tried to watch a little seed take root, you’ll understand that such things cannot happen while you watch them. A seed will sit and sit and sit so long as you are determined to “catch” the moment it pushes out a taproot. It will not happen because it is waiting for you to look away and do something else – to engage in some other activity – to NOT be engaged in watching seeds take root.

This is the pause. It is an out breath – a moment of sleep where the listener can allow the previous image to take root and become a part of their being. The storyteller stops talking and waits as well. He or she waits until there is a moment of integration and solidity – when the listeners’ shoulders drop and they shift just a little. This subtle cue says that the listener is ready for the next image – the next bit of delicious narrative.

So I encourage you to be quiet. Say “Once upon a time there was a donkey…” and then dont’ say anything. Wait. Wait. Wait and then when your listener shifts just a little, say more about the donkey. But don’t say anything until they show that they have successfully integrated the image “donkey” before you move on. It also gives the storyteller a moment to learn something – to see how the image “donkey” has landed. Perhaps the story should go in a different direction than initially planned. Perhaps you yourself learn something about the donkey.

There are many ways for an entire family to pause. A weekend, a sabbath, a 'holy week', a 'screen free' week. It is a time of sleep and some time away from a certain kind of attention. We have a week away from it and breath out.

Then we can begin anew – and perhaps have learned something in the process.

About the Author

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

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