In this article I’m going to show you how to avoid creating awkward silences in conversations.
If you’re anything like I used to be, then you know how uncomfortable they are. It sucks to be talking to someone and suddenly your mind goes blank and you can’t think of what to say.
You may be screaming inside to yourself: “Just say anything!” but it doesn’t work.
It’s like your mind has shut down. Gone for a vacation. Abandoned you.
And left you by yourself to deal with the silence and the awkwardness. That weird feeling when you and the other person are both trying to avoid eye contact while wondering what will save you both from this awful situation.
I remember one time when I went to a school party on the first week of initiation at the University of Ottawa. It was in a big room where everyone could see everyone else. There were some chips and drinks off on a table to the side, and maybe 40-50 people talking loudly in groups throughout the room.
Standing beside the food table by myself, I felt very isolated looking at everyone socializing. I tried to make eye contact with this guy I had met before, but he didn’t see me. I didn’t think I could make myself simply walk up and meet someone new. I had never done it before. What would I even say?
Maybe I could just slip outside and nobody would notice…
Suddenly one of the group leaders for the initiation week saw me standing by myself. He was a tall, cheerful guy with a shaved head. He acted a bit like a frat boy, but I think it was his job to talk to everyone. His name tag read “Jon.”
He walked over to me and said, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Caught off guard by his sudden approach, I just replied, “Good.”
I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights.
“Are you having fun?” he asked.
“Yes,” I lied.
“Why don’t you socialize and talk with some people?”
His well-meaning question made me feel put on the spot. I didn’t know how to reply.
I tried desperately to think of something more to say.
There it was. The dreaded awkward silence. Why did it always seem to always happen whenever someone tried to talk to me?
Jon felt the awkwardness, too. I could see him waiting for me to say something more, but my brain seemed to have become disconnected from my mouth.
“Well, see you around,” he said finally, and I watched him walk away quickly.
I didn’t make this story up. It’s just one of hundreds of uncomfortable situations I could share with you from back in the days when I had virtually no social skills.
The good news is, there are some simple tips you can use today to avoid awkward silences. These are tips which I know work because I have used them myself. And I’ll share them with you now.
1. Learn How To Hold A Conversation
This first tip is pretty straightforward.
If you often can’t think of what to say, then you need to learn the technique called conversation threading.
It will teach you a 3 step formula for always knowing what to say next. This one technique changed my life when I first started using it, and it’s changed the lives of hundreds of my students when I first decided to teach it.
If you’ve ever had trouble keeping a conversation going with someone, then click here to learn conversation threading. Practice it and within a few weeks you’ll find your ability to make conversation has gone up dramatically. Just this one technique could have saved me in the story I just told you before.
2. Change How You Act After The Silence
I used to view every silence that happened in a conversation as being my fault. I thought I caused the silence by not knowing what to say.
I would immediately stress myself out thinking I needed to fill it somehow. The silence made me uncomfortable, and since I became uncomfortable, the other person would also become uncomfortable.
Here’s a crazy thing I’ve realized.
The majority of the time it was my discomfort after the silence that created the awkwardness. Not the silence itself. So the big key is to see silences as no big deal.
Keep in mind this article is not about how to avoid silences, but how to avoid awkward silences. This simple shift in your mindset will take away most of the awkwardness.
Now what I’ve learned to do is RELAX when a silence comes up. I stay comfortable in it. And whenever one of us thinks of something new to say, the conversation goes on as normal. The silence is not payed any attention, almost like it didn’t even exist.
Pauses in conversations are normal and to be expected. If you continue on like nothing happened, then there is usually no awkwardness. (Unless you are talking to another person with social anxiety who has the same issues you do lol.)
So now you may be asking…
How do you stay relaxed? There’s plenty of techniques I could teach you. I share two of my relaxation techniques in this article: muscle relaxation and deep breathing.
One last point…
Situational comments are an easy, natural way to “re-start” conversations. Try to keep your attention focused on the external world. It’s much easier to have something to say when you are focused on what is happening around you then when you are trying to force your brain to create something new to say out of thin air.
3. Friends Allow Silences To Happen
This is related to the last point, but this time I want to talk specifically about how silence can actually deepen and strengthen a friendship or relationship.
Think about someone you are close to. It could be your mom, dad, brother, sister, or a best friend you’ve known for years. Think back to the last time you did something with them. It could be an activity or just hanging out together. Now, answer this question:
Did you talk all the time?
Probably not. Talking nonstop with someone is simply not sustainable in a longer relationship. And the people that do talk all the time are often seen as being “hyper” or “unable to chill.” (My age is really showing with the slang here.)
Walk around any store and pay attention to the couples, families, and other groups of people walking around. You’ll see that this is true. Comfortable silences are almost as important as the actual conversation.
Often people who are uncomfortable with silences feel like they need to keep talking as a way to convince or entertain other people into liking them. Most people can see right through this and know it comes from insecurity.
You need to realize the primary reason people spend time with each other simply for the companionship, to not be alone. So don’t think you have to be super interesting all the time.
The reason why I mentioned this point is because it is a big mistake I see a lot of shy and socially anxious people making. They don’t feel comfortable with silences, so they actually create awkwardness by trying too hard to make people like them. This alienates a lot of people who could potentially become close friends with you.
So there you have it. 3 quick tips to avoid creating awkward silences in conversations. Here’s a quick summary:
- Learn to keep conversations going with the conversation threading technique.
- Change how you act after the silence. If you can relax and remain comfortable, then the awkwardness usually doesn’t come up. (Unless the other person has social anxiety.)
- Allow silences to happen. They’re a part of every longer-term friendship or relationship. Don’t think you have to entertain or impress other people, be secure that they will like you even if you aren’t “on” all the time.
These are tips you can take with you today and begin using immediately. And if you’d like to learn more tips just like these, then be sure to check out my system for overcoming shyness or social anxiety found here.
By following my proven system, you’ll be able to talk to almost anyone about anything and have it be interesting. You’ll learn how to come across as warm and charismatic so people are drawn to you. And you’ll learn many more quick tricks for being more outgoing, making friends, and overcoming nervousness in social situations. I tell you exactly what to do and how and when to do it.