Have you ever been a part of those conversations where an awkward silence sets in out of nowhere? And all that you think about is how to break the awkward silence. But nothing comes to your mind.
Imagine it’s the first day of your high school.
The class is full of students dreaming about all the new possibilities and experiences that await them. Most of the students are hanging around and chatting casually.
Across the room, you see a group of cool kids and naturally, you want to join in.
You approach them and start introducing yourself. However, after the first five minutes, you run out of things to talk about.
That phase of awkward silence in a conversation has begun.
After about 10 minutes, the group gets up to leave, saying ‘’See you around’’ and leaves while taking all your hopes of being a part of the cool people gang with them.
If you have experienced anything like the situation above, then you must know how uncomfortable and disturbing awkward silences can get.
Do you think you have a socially inept personality?
Honestly, nothing is worse than trying to avoid eye contact with the other person while both are wondering of ways to break the awkward moment of silence.
Whether you are talking to your friends, having a conversation with your colleagues or sitting in a lecture praying the professor doesn’t ask you a question, the fear of silence, aka sedatephobia is a real thing.
Thus, learning how to kill an awkward silence in a conversation can be highly useful in helping you deal with social phobia.
Fortunately, there are a few simple tips and tricks that you can implement right now to avoid awkward silences.
Having personal experience with using these tips, I can say for a fact that they will work wonders in getting you out of any uncomfortable situation.
All that you need to have is patience and a willingness to practice.
What does it mean to have an awkward silence in a conversation?
Awkward silence in a conversation is a break or a pause between phrases.
It is associated with feelings of anxiety as the person feels pressured to come up with things to say but is unsure of what to say next.
The length of the awkward silence may vary according to the language or culture of the people involved.
So the question is when does awkward silence start in a conversation?
An awkward silence may start if you exceed the time appropriate for changing the subject in a conversation.
Or perhaps it may begin with an ill-considered mark or an insufficient response from a participant.
Also, an awkward silence can occur in a classroom setting where the student is expected to answer but is unable to do so. In general, awkward silence usually occurs in a social setting where a participant has finished what he has to say and is now looking for ways to break the awkward silence.
If you feel that such situations are highly uncomfortable and are putting a damper on your mood and self-esteem, it is time to arm yourself with knowledge on how to break the ice in a conversation.
The science behind how awkward silences work in a conversation
You might be thinking to yourself, what is the psychology behind awkward silences?
Getting caught up in awkward silence during a conversation can be due to several different reasons. Perhaps one of you says something weird or offensive that the other person is unable to respond to.
Or maybe the other person gives too-short an answer that doesn’t require a proper response, hence the awkwardness. Also, if one of you wants to end the conversation, this might give rise to lengthy awkward pauses in the conversation.
Another popular reason for silent moments during a conversation is that the participants involved are equally insecure in carrying out the conversation to full terms.
They feel the need to talk constantly to seek others’ approval. Perhaps this is also why killing the awkwardness in a conversation is so difficult for us. We don’t want to mess it up.
The excessive need to talk eventually leads to moments of insecurity and discomfort, hence awkward silence. You need to keep in mind that the original reason for talking is to effectively communicate with other people. You don’t have to talk incessantly to make that happen.
Around 80 percent of communication is non-verbal. However, if you still feel like avoiding the awkward silence, continue ready below for a few simple tips and tricks to do so.
Why is awkward silence so uncomfortable?
The next time you find yourself in awkward silence during a conversation and you say to yourself why is silence so awkward? Blame it on your constant need to belong. According to a recent study published by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, awkward silences in a conversation can give rise to feelings of being isolated, left-out or anxious.
And this is mainly due to the way our brains are wired.
According to research conducted in the Netherland where they demonstrated the effect on the participants of a conversation that faltered or went on without a hitch.
The research showed that when you are having a conversation without any disruption, it triggers positive feelings. You feel that you belong and have a lot of things in common with the other person.
However, when you get caught up in a moment of awkward silence and run out of things to say to break the silence, you instantly feel distressed.
Not only does awkward silences instil the belief that something is wrong with us, but it also gives rise to feelings of rejection and exclusion from a social setting.
People center their entire relationships on the ability to converse adequately with the next person.
Another popular reason for fear during an awkward silence is the constant media-generated background noise. In a study conducted from 2007 to 2012, 580 students were observed closely to learn about the science behind awkward silences. According to the results of the study, the main reason for fear of awkward silence during a conversation is that we don’t like sitting in silence. Mostly because we have grown up without it for the better part of our lives. Almost all of us have grown up with the constant noise of television being played in our backgrounds.
When you constantly find yourself in moments of awkward silence like an awkward conversation with your partner, you feel that you can no longer carry intellectual conversations with the next person. Not only does it affect your self-esteem, but it also makes you feel not worthy of other’s attention and love.
How to benefit from awkward silences in a conversation?
Is awkward silence a bad thing?
A lot of us believe that we have to talk all the time and that sudden silence during a social setting is very awkward.
That is not necessarily the case all the time. Being silent in a conversation can provide you with thinking space that will make your conversation much more interesting and intellectual.
Here is how you can benefit from awkward silence during a conversation.
- You should realize that silence in a conversation can hold several purposes. Speaking incessantly can make you come off as anxious and fidgety. If you find yourself in an awkward conversation with your girlfriend and instantly start thinking about things to talk about with your girl, this is a tell-tale sign that you are not very comfortable with your partner.
- You need to stop viewing silence as some sort of a failure. When you get comfortable with silence as much as you do with speaking, it will lead to a whole new meaningful conversation. The next time you find yourself in an awkward conversation with your friends, use that silence as a break and a time to reflect upon and gather your thoughts.
- Realize that most of the people around you crave for moments of silence in a conversation. Often, we find ourselves talking incessantly to kill the awkward silence in a conversation thinking that the other person wants you to. However, the reality is different. If you let yourself be quiet from time to time in a conversation, people would admire you for it.
- You don’t have to voice all the thoughts that come to your mind. Speaking less and remaining silent is a trait of the wise. Be mindful of how you feel or about your thoughts during a conversation. However, only let a few necessary thoughts escape from your mind. Let the rest live their own life in your head. From my experience, this is one of the most powerful things that awkward silence has taught me.
- If you regularly find yourself thinking on how to break the awkward silence with friends, chances are that you have deep-rooted insecurities. Perhaps you feel that you will not get their approval and are constantly trying to prove yourself? If you feel uncomfortable with silence with your friends, or even best friends, learn to resolve the underlying reasons. Not only will it help you get comfortable with silence in the conversation, but it will also make you a stronger version of yourself.
- Know that sometimes an awkward silence in a conversation is a sign that the other person wants to end the conversation.Instead of immediately looking at what to say in the awkward silence, pay attention to the other person. If he has been contributing less and less to the conversation, try to politely finish the conversation.
- Think before you speak. How many times have we heard this statement? Probably endless times. Well, it’s time to implement it. Awkward silences are the perfect time to think carefully over the next words that come out of your mouth. Not only will help you censor your words and avoid speaking unnecessarily, but it will also make you come off as intelligent and wise.
7 ways to Kill an awkward silence and take back charge of the conversation
If you feel like awkward silences in a conversation are always a buzzkill and make you very self-conscious, it is time to turn things around.
So the next time you think to yourself on how to break the awkward silence, these few simple tips and tricks will help you immensely.
Consider learning a few icebreaker phrases
To be a good conversationalist, you don’t have to possess very high-end speaking skills.
A few simple questions are all that you will need to break the silence in a conversation. Say you meet your best friend after a long time but you face a lack of things to talk about.
Some of the questions that can break the awkward silence with your best friend can be ”Have you been in contact with our mutual friends?” or ”How is your family doing”. Also, you can ask him about how he spends his weekends at home.
Think of a few topics ahead of time
A question that has plagued most of us is how to break silence on a first date? Say you are out on a first date with the person of your dreams.
All is going perfectly, and then the awkward silence sets in. Your run out of things to say. Your companions get quiet. You try to avoid eye contact.
Their eyes are constantly on the clock. The atmosphere gets very strained and intense. If you have ever been in such a situation, consider thinking of a few topics beforehand that you can jumpstart to when awkward silence prevails.
Think of a few funny things to say to break the silence. If your date shares your interest in a particular sport or hobby, talk to them about why they like it.
Talking about popular books or recent events are all good conversation starters.
Try to steer clear of argumentative topics like politics on your first date.
You can always approach such topics on later dates.
Try changing your response to an awkward silence
More often than not, it is not the silence that is uncomfortable but the discomfort after the silence is what creates the awkwardness.
Breaks in a conversation are normal and can happen to any of us. When a moment of awkward silence comes up, just remain calm and relaxed. And then whether you or the next person thinks of something, the conversation can resume.
An important way to stay relaxed during an awkward situation is to try and focus on your breathing.
Or you can focus on your surroundings. It is a lot easier to say something about the external world rather than forcing your brain to come up with something new.
So the next time you want to learn how to break awkwardness after a fight, start about the little day-to-day life.
Consider suggesting an activity
If you are out on a date with your girlfriend and the two of you run out of things to talk about, suggest an activity.
The activity could be as simple as taking a walk together and having a quick drink at a bar.
Keep in mind that not every communication is verbal so you don’t have to talk non-stop to have a great date.
So how do you break the awkward silence with your girlfriend? Generally, girls tend to be more nervous and shy than guys.
In this case, walking is a good idea as it will be easier for her to talk when she doesn’t have to look you in the face.
Avoid multitasking while talking on the phone
Chances are that getting caught up in moments of awkward silences on the phone has happened to most of us.
So how do you break the awkward silence on the phone? Almost all of us find it very hard to concentrate on one thing for a longer period.
And if that is talking on the phone where you don’t see the person, it is even harder. The best thing to stay focused during your phone conversations and avoid awkward silence is to avoid multitasking.
Not just on the phone, you should focus on the conversation at hand while talking directly to others as well.
To avoid distractions like looking in the mirror or watching tv while talking. Getting busy with outside concerns will disrupt the flow of the conversation.
Try enjoying the awkward silence
One of the most popular ways of dealing with awkward silence is by making a joke out of it.
So the next time you don’t know what to talk about with the girl you like, point it out.
Say something like,” Here we go again, that awkward silence…”. This will not only help break the ice in a conversation but it will also make you come off as confident and funny to the girl you like.
Consider asking open-ended questions to let the conversation flowing
When an awkward silence sets in, don’t ask questions that have limited answers.
Try asking some open-ended questions that will elicit longer responses from the next person. This will keep the conversation flow smoothly. This is also one of the best ways on how to avoid awkward silence with your crush.
So instead of asking,” Where are you from?” you should ask, ”Is your hometown a beautiful place?”.
The second question will result in a detailed response about the location, people, experience and places involved.
How to embrace awkward silences in a conversation?
Let’s be honest here. Awkward silences with your friends or anyone else makes us extremely uncomfortable.
The fear that you won’t have anything to say in a conversation can be a constant source of anxiety.
More often than not, the awkward silence itself isn’t terrifying. It is usually the gap in conversation that is disturbing for most of us.
An important thing to realize is that if you are constantly worrying about what to say next, you will find yourself in such awkward situations more often.
Do you constantly have to look for ways on how to break the silence in a conversation? Maybe the awkward silence isn’t such a bad thing after all. Dr Alex Lickerman of the University of Chicago states that the problem with most people is that we don’t think of silence as a tool.
Imagine that a seminar is taking place and the leader asks a question from his audience.
There is this long awkward pause where nobody answers but it provides ample time for the audience members to think hard on the question at hand.
One of them ventures a guess which gives way to an interesting and interactive discussion. Was the awkward silence here such a bad thing?
Often overlooked is the fact that silence can arm us with the skills to listen well and to think well.
To be very honest here, when it comes to a conversation,
I often find myself thinking of what I will say next instead of listening intently to what the other person is saying.
Instead of constantly thinking on what to say in awkward silence, focus on just being silent.
Not only will it boost your ability to concentrate better, but it will also give you ample time to think hard before you speak your next words.
Nevertheless, if you still want to avoid awkward silence, we have talked above about some of the ways of breaking the ice in a conversation.
Putting it all together
Awkward silences in a conversation are an uncomfortable part of any social setting. Not only do they put a huge damper on one’s mood, but they can be a huge blow to your self-esteem as well.
I mean let’s be honest here.
None of us wants to get caught up in an awkward moment of trying to avoid eye contact and waiting impatiently for the moment to cease.
The guide above is all that you will need on how to avoid awkward silence in a conversation.
It can be a little overwhelming to start implementing all the above-mentioned ideas at once.
Simply settle on one idea at a time and implement it in a real-life situation. When you get the hang of it, come back to this article and pick a new one.
That’s how easy it is, folks!