Задание 14 из ЕГЭ по английскому языку: задача 6
At your next meeting, wait for a pause in conversation and try to measure how long it lasts. Chances are — especially among English speakers — it will be a second or two at most. Even among sign language speakers, studies show that typically we leave just a fraction of a second between taking turns to talk. But while this pattern may be universal, our perceptions of silence differ dramatically across cultures — a crucial detail if you’re doing business internationally. Anglophones tend to be most uncomfortable with long gaps in a discussion. And yet, knowing when to be tight-lipped can give you the upper hand in everything from sales deals and pay negotiations to presentations and staff development. Silence really is golden. What one culture considers a perplexing or awkward pause, others see as a valuable moment of reﬂection and a sign of respect for what the last speaker has said. Research conducted at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands in Dutch and also in English found that when a silence in conversation stretched to four seconds, people started to feel unsettled. In contrast, a separate study of business meetings found that Japanese people were happy with silences of 8.2 seconds — nearly twice as long as in Americans’ meetings. These cultural differences are reﬂected in the saying in the US that ‘the squeaky wheel gets the grease’ while in Japan it’s reckoned that ‘a silent man is the best one to listen to’.
So why do mother-tongue English speakers ﬁnd long pauses hard to handle? In the US, it may stem from the history of colonial America as a crossroads of many different peoples. When you have a heterogeneous complex of difference, it’s hard to establish common understanding unless you talk and there’s understandably a kind of anxiety unless people are verbally engaged to establish a common life. In contrast, when there’s more homogeneity perhaps it’s easier for some kinds of silence to appear. For example, among your closest friends and family it’s easier to sit in silence than with people you’re less well acquainted with.
The fact that English speakers are generally so awkward around silence is partly why it can be such a powerful tool. Sales expert Gavin Presman consistently pauses after making a pitch — after reading that counsellors should wait ﬁve seconds after a patient ﬁnishes speaking. “In business, ﬁve seconds might be too long, so I leave three seconds and what happens is remarkable,” says Presman. “We often think that silence is people simply not speaking,” says Presman. “But it allows both people to settle down and reﬂect a bit deeper.”
Of course, there are times when it’s better to speak up. Silence can sometimes be misinterpreted. Researchers of courtroom interaction found lawyers advised clients giving testimony to think before answering and not jump in immediately. But juries often suspected that a silence before speaking meant the person was concocting a lie. The intention and the effect of silence are often different. In the workplace that can mean a manager announcing a decision and assuming that if staff are unhappy they will speak up. The employees, however, may see no point in saying anything because the boss has made up their mind.
Learning how to face silence is an important skill, especially when working across cultures. Chinese negotiators are very, very aware that Americans like to ﬁll silences and they are trained to stay silent and impassive because that will make the Americans uncomfortable and possibly make concessions without the Chinese having to do anything. In presentations, silence can be far more effective than dramatic passion. A classic example was when Apple co-founder Steve Jobs launched the ﬁrst iPhone. He introduced pauses so that you didn’t miss his key points. Because silence makes us nervous, our instinctive reaction is that we’d better pay attention, there’s something going on here.
Silence can be an inward-focused thoughtful activity or an outward stillness where you give yourself the time to watch and think and listen to the world around you. Silence can be a very powerful focal point for understanding ourselves, understanding others, for developing better mutual understanding and more productive outcomes and that applies to business, politics, education, law, medicine, every realm of human life.
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Which culture values long silent pauses in conversation?
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