Have you ever been in a situation where you had nothing to talk about? Has there been a time when there was a long moment of silence after a conversation? Further, have you ever met someone for the first time and had no idea what to talk about? If the answer is Yes! then you have experienced a period of awkward silence. It is a very common phenomenon that occurs on various occasions and happens to most of us. In this article, we explore what is awkward silence, why it happens, and how to avoid awkward silence. We look at helpful ways in which we can break the awkward silence.
Ideally, pauses are very common in any conversation. Silence is even necessary. This gives time for the listener to make sense of the information. This also gives time for the speaker to catch her breath. However, when the pause is unexpectedly long, it becomes awkward. Imagine you are a speaker on the stage and you forget your speech. There is a very long pause where you try to remember your speech. This silence between the audience and speaker is an example of awkward silence.
Why Is Silence Uncomfortable?
Just think of a phone conversation with a friend where there was a long pause and both of you kept guessing who would break the silence. It is awkward, confusing, and hurtful all at the same time. Silence makes us uncomfortable because you feel that it is your responsibility to fill in the silence and talk about something good. You feel pressured to speak. You may feel that the other person will find you boring. Silence can sometimes even lower your self-esteem. For example in a class presentation, when you suddenly stop speaking and the room gets silent, you can feel nervous.
Moreover, we don’t always feel awkward in silent moments. Around our close friends and people, we feel comfortable around, we don’t fear silence. You can sit with your friend and not talk for hours. However, in front of strangers, silence can be very uncomfortable. This is because we fear their judgment and rejection.
How to Avoid Awkward Silence?
Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that silence is a part of any conversation. It is very normal and sometimes bound to occur. People who meditate daily, are very comfortable in moments of silence. Rather, years of meditation make them even like silence. Therefore, it is important to understand that silence should not make us panic. Once you anticipate it, it becomes easier to break the awkward silence. Here’s how to avoid awkward silence.
Don’t Deep Dive into Complicated Topics at the Start
When you start a conversation, try to keep it as simple as possible. Don’t blurt out everything about the topic. At first, you’d want to be comfortable around the person You would also want the person to get comfortable around you. In the beginning, you can take time to know the body language of the person, you can make use of light conversation starters such as talking about the weather or complimenting the person on their dress. This will ensure that you are building good rapport. You neither want to sound too intimidating nor too boring. This will help to avoid any awkward silence that follows when you have blurted out a lot of information.
Try to Generate Stories
If you ask too many questions without listening to their response, the person may feel put off. To avoid awkward silence, try asking story-generating questions. Your questions should be open-ended. They can involve asking about the experience or describing any event. Simple ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ questions can cut short the conversation. Dont ask too many personal questions which can confuse the other person. Try to make the other person feel at ease. Questions like, ‘Can you tell us the best part of your school’, ‘how do you find the city? what’s it that you like the most?’. These questions allow the speaker to be descriptive.
The most common reason for awkward silence in a conversation is a lack of interest. It is important to notice the subtle cues in the partner while holding a conversation. Many facial expressions reveal whether the person is interested or not. Their eye movements, attention, and smile are all indicative of their interest in a conversation. If a person looks disinterested in a conversation, try to shift the topic. It is important to understand that the other person may be uncomfortable too. Therefore one should respect that and not force the person into a conversation. If the person is uncomfortable with a topic, try changing it.
Add Some Fun!
When you are talking or giving a speech, try to add some fun to the process. This will help you to avoid and break the awkward silence. For instance, if someone asks you a question, try to add some interesting details. Sharing some extra details will help them understand more about you. This can keep the conversation long and help you to break the awkward silence.
Practice your conversation skills. Family functions or parties are a good place to practice. Often we fall prey to awkward silence because we fall short of topics. You can make a list of interesting topics to discuss at social events. Similarly, you can practice with your friends. It is also important to get comfortable with silence. In this way, silences will not get awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes there is a pause in the conversation, simply because the participants want to reflect and introspect. This should not be interpreted as rejection. Once you practice silence, it becomes easier to tolerate momentary pauses in a conversation.