Alex: “The last movie I saw was Inception.”
You: “Oh, I saw that movie! I liked it.”
Alex: “Yeah, it was a good movie.”
You: “Yeah, aha…”
And then, S-I-L-E-N-C-E. So much silence that if feels awkward. You can hear your heart beating, you can hear the clock on the wall ticking, and you can’t tell which is which anymore.
It sometimes happens, even for persons with good people skills, to have a conversation that gets stuck at certain points, no one is speaking and it doesn’t feel right. Knowing how to avoid awkward silences is a people skill that can save the day in such a case.
I treasure a conversation with a good flow. Over the years, both me and many of my social confidence coaching clients have tested various tools and techniques to keep conversations going and to avoid those silences that feel weird.
There is also a huuuge attitude component to avoiding awkward silences. The fact of the matter is that people who are confident and feel at ease in social settings naturally find ways to get over silences and create flow.
So before anything else, I advise you to watch my free social confidence presentation. In it I will teach you my proven formula for becoming a charismatic and confident conversationalist. Go here to access it. I promise it will inspire you.
There are three ways to avoid awkward silences in a conversation that are on the top of my mind. Here they are:
1. Think Less, Talk More
There is always something to say in a conversation, a way to continue it. The fact that people who can keep talking for hours nonstop exist is living proof of that. Awkward silences appear in conversation many times because we don’t give ourselves permission to talk.
We are overanalyzing, looking for the perfect thing to say, for the proper line to continue with. When we can’t come up with one, we shut up and just sit there. That’s what creates most awkward silences.
Learn to stop looking for the perfect conversation and to just say whatever comes to your mind. If you feel like talking about the delicious pie you had for breakfast, do that. You’ll discover that it’s actually fine to let go and talk about whatever you feel like.
2. Get Excited and Curious
It’s hard to have awkward silences in a conversation when you’re a really curious person, excited to discover the other person and willing to ask them a lot of questions.
The point is not to turn a conversation into an interrogatory. However, getting curious and asking questions based on this is, in my practice, one of the best ways to have a good flow in a conversation.
The other person may not be so eager to talk about some subjects. Don’t interpret this as a negative reflection upon you. Continue being curious and trust me, you will discover the subjects the other person is eager to talk about.
3. Keep the Silence, Remove the Awkward
I used to think that in a social interaction, one person must always be talking. That assumption got totally trashed when I started really observing other people interacting and noticing some people sitting at a table together, having a coffee in silence and totally enjoying the interaction.
A social interaction is much more than words. An exchange between people can happen simply by having eye contact or being present together, in the same moment.
Instead of trying to gap every silence, every once in a while to let it be instead and enjoy it. Make silences a natural part of a certain type of conversations. As you’ll get better at this, I can tell you from experience that you’ll really learn to appreciate silences in social interactions.
Always bear in mind to work on your attitude as well. Techniques can only get you so far. I have a practical guide for you concerning this, which you can find here.
The people skill of making conversation is part science, part art. How to avoid awkward silences is something that can be taught as theory up to a certain point, but it depends even more on practicing the theory and on gradually becoming more comfortable interacting with more types of people.
I wish you a lot of fun with your practice. Now, get out there and be social!
Image courtesy of Brandon Christopher Warren