I find that silence is an amazing tool of communication. When I am in a phase of gathering and learning, silence enables deep listening. Silence affords space, space which can be filled with knowledge, or honesty, a shared feeling, an advantage, an emotional transfer. In a negotiation, comfort in silence is a powerful tool. Watch and listen as people grow uneasy with silence, negotiate with themselves, lowering their asks, their expectations. In introducing a moment of art, silence is a reset of the mind and the soul. Wagner habitually began each of his operas with extended periods of silence. He did it to introduce tension. A tension of expectation. A tension of WANTING. A tension that shifted the experience to make the moment of the first string chord in the overture of Gotterdamerung a prescription for amazement, rapture, and enlistment.
Now that is probably a very different use of silence than you may imagine, to deliberately make your audience uncomfortable. But it created a consensual yearning for release ! a tee-up for a state change.
Intention or In Tension
I am very fond of the idea that there are many different flavor of tension as well. When Seth Godin talks about sharing tension in a generous and constructive way, I identify entirely with that notion. My primary craft is creating immersive environments to tell stories and create reactions… When I am describing, or pitching my work, I seek to enlist my clients or collaborators by attempting to create an echo of the feeling they will have in the powerful moments we will make. Now I can’t bring the same fidelity of reaction without putting you into the actual immersive moment I am going to bring, with all of the production values that go with it. But I CAN create an echo, first by my own total belief, total buy in on what I am about describe… And then… I perform it. I get up, I walk around, I describe with enthusiasm, what the visual will be, what the sound will be, the temperature, the feeling, the emotion. And I AM that. I seek to create what Benjamin Zander describes as the “gleam in the eye”. Maybe it starts because you chuckle at how enthusiastic I am, but then I set the tone, I commit, and you know I believe this… and then the transfer (If I am lucky, if I get it right). Now YOU believe. These moments are also tension. It’s easy to equate tension with fear, but tension also manifests as expectation, as anticipation.
Tension is the raw materials of savoring. To savor is to enjoy with a consciousness of THIS moment, and it is all the more special because it is fleeting. You savor because you are IN that feeling now, and you know soon it will be gone. And that is tension.
The more I live with this thought, the more I realize that perhaps “Creating Tension” is an apt byline for my vocation.
Armed with this perspective on tension, can you see ways that you perhaps utilize tension, generate tension, leverage tension ? I suspect perhaps so…