As a friend tells the story, he was watching a television reporter interview the pilot of a commercial jet that had had a close call nearly 2 years ago. It was pretty standard morning television: the stoic pilot with a crew cut and a military mien, dispassionately describing his maneuvers in the cockpit as though he were auditioning for the role of Joe Friday in a Dragnet sequel.
And then the reporter asked the pilot what he was thinking at the critical moment when his survival, and that of his passengers, was very much in doubt. The pilot paused for what must’ve been three or four seconds, and his eyes began to nervously scan the middle distance. Finally, he spoke, struggling to choke out the words.
“I . . I. . ..was thinking of my wife, and just hoping I’d get the chance to see her again.”
My friend said he watched, spellbound. The pilot’s emotion– retrieving his worst fear and communicating it with such honesty and grace–had transformed the mundane into something resplendent. Like a great film or painting, the pilot’s raw display of humanity changed us, if only slightly.
And the power of the moment was in that pregnant pause.
When my friend saw the same interview later that day, some editor had cut the pause, and the interview wasn’t nearly as compelling. But it’s a good reminder that emotion can breathe life into marketing content.