You ever been at a party, and noticed that people stopped paying attention to you halfway through your stories?
Or worse, you’re halfway through what you thought was a killer story with an insightful punchline, only to find your listeners only paying attention out of politeness?
The excitement has gone from their faces and you can sort of tell they’re thinking, “dude, how much longer is this gonna be?”
Well, you’re in luck.
Most people think that being interesting means you’ve got to have interesting content.
One of the things you learn in NLP is to separate “content” from “structure.” Most everybody thinks that “content is king,” and while it’s important, it’s certainly not the only thing.
Structure is very important. You can have incredibly boring, rehashed content, but if you put it into a compelling structure, people will listen to you with baited breath, hanging on every word.
How do you do that?
By using small, little, cliffhangers.
The name, of course, comes from some poor guy hanging off the edge of a cliff at the end of a TV show, so you’ll have to tune in next week to find out what happens next.
Another name for it in NLP language is an “open loop.” You’ll hear plenty of people mentioning these on the forums.
Now, sometimes you can create a cliffhanger or an open loop through your content. You come up with an interesting story, lead up to the climax, and then just change the subject.
You can literally have people eating out of your hands for hours on end. Now, this is fantastic if you happen to have tons of stories up your sleeve on your way to a filibuster, but for most of us, that’s a bit of overkill.
Most of us are just happy to keep people on edge for a couple of minutes, so we can get to the punchline without any problems.
For that, you need structure cliffhangers. They’re very easy, and very compelling.
All you do is insert your pauses where they wouldn’t normally go.
See, most people speak like this:
[phrase] pause [phrase] pause [phrase] pause [phrase]
When you talk like that, each pause comes at a natural ending point. The idea is finished, and it’s easy for the mind to wander. Consider these groups of sentences:
Yesterday I went to the store. [pause]
I bought an apple. [pause]
It was red. [pause]
Then I saw my friend. [pause]
Pretty boring, right? Anybody listening would use the pauses to wonder if you were ever going to say something interesting.
But what happens when you stick your pauses WITHIN the phrase itself, between two “sentence elements” that usually go together, like the verb and the object?
Since the brain doesn’t like loose ends, the listener would be compelled to listen to find out what’s going on. This would create unconscious “response potential” making your boring story seem a lot more interesting.
Yesterday I went to the [pause] store. I bought an [pause] apple. It was [pause] red. Then I saw [pause] my friend.
This can be particularly effective if you’re speaking to a group of people, and you use the pauses to look around and make eye contact with a couple of them before continuing.
Try it out. It’s easy, fun, and it works really well.