SILENCE IS AN asset, rather than a liability. Most beginning speakers view complete silence of any kind as an anathema. But every good speaker knows how to use silence to his or her advantage. A wise person once said that there is, in any good speech, a greater message in the pauses than in the words that surround them. There may be some truth to that. For one thing, most speakers tend to talk too fast. One reason they speak too fast is because they are always rushing to fill the dreaded “dead air,” these moments of sweat-inducing silence when not a sound is occurring in a room filled with people. Another reason is that they want it over with as quickly as possible.

A friend of mine who runs a small business has a recurring ...

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