Never Worry About Awkward Silences Again

August 14th, 2012 by Nick Notas 9 Comments

Think back to a time you hit a lull in conversation with a stranger. How did you feel?

Most likely scared, nervous, and pressured.

Now think about a different time where you had silence with a best friend, significant other, or family member. How did you feel?

Most likely content, relaxed, and at ease.

So, what changed? Nothing — except your perception of the silence. Temporary silence is a normal part of conversational rhythm. It’s only when you believe that it’s a huge issue that it becomes a huge issue. Start seeing it as an opportunity to reflect, gather your thoughts, and continue where you left off.

Empty your mind

We choke during unfamiliar social situations because we’re stuck in our heads. We’re too busy coming up with something “interesting” to say rather than being present in the moment. Stop worrying so much about sounding stupid and just listen.

Repeatedly shut up that voice in your head and focus on paying attention to the other person. Be curious about what they’re saying and let your thoughts come naturally. The more you try to conjure up the perfect words, the more you will draw a blank. Allow the words to find you – just like you do with the people closest to you.

Relax your body

Here’s something to think about:

No one can tell you’re uncomfortable unless you show them. You could be terrified but if your body language says “I’m having a good time.” others will be none the wiser. Check out how calm John Travolta looks amidst the “uncomfortable silence”.

Force yourself to relax. I know it’s not easy, but you have to consciously remind yourself. You’re not going to die if you don’t say something for five seconds and nor will she – I promise. If you come off fidgety and stare like a deer in headlights, she will feel those nervous emotions herself. But, if you look calm and collected, she will feel at ease.

Take a breath, let your shoulders drop (instead of tense up), and smile confidently. If you’ve got a drink in your hand, pick it up unhurriedly, take a sip, and place it back down while holding gentle eye contact. You can even lean back against the wall. Doing these things should give you an extra 5-10 seconds to speak up.

Coincidentally, when you release the tension from your physical body, your mind will follow.

Ignite the conversation

Now that you’re out of your head and de-stressed, let’s get the ball rolling. Here are six ways to make that happen.

  1. Relate to the last thing said or a previous topic in discussion. Where did the conversation leave off? Can you state your opinion on it? Can you ask them a deeper question? Can you share a story that relates to it? Read the section about “hook points” in my conversationalist article for reference.
  2. Make an observational/situational statement. Spontaneously comment on something you can see with your eyes. That could be anything about what they’re wearing, the venue you’re in, or a person around you, etc. “By the way, the guy dancing over there is hilarious.” “You know, very few people can pull off a dress like that, I’m impressed.” (to a girl)
  3. Ask a meaningful question.What are you genuinely interested in knowing about them? For example, if you’re talking to a girl: “Are you a pet person?” “What’s your biggest fear?” “What are your greatest passions?”

    Ideally, these should again relate to a previous discussion point but don’t have to. You can lead in with, “So, I’m intrigued…

  4. Q.

  5. Take the pressure off of yourself. If the interaction has been going well, let the other person chime in. When the silence arises, relax as instructed above, smile warmly, and wait for a response. If they don’t bite, you can say something after a few seconds like “Okay, your turn.” or “I’ve been talking your ear off, tell me something about you.”
  6. Talk about the fun you’re having. This can be used when having a good conversation with a woman who’s invested in you. Expressing that you’re having an awesome time and how relaxed you feel can squash any awkwardness. “I’m having such a great time right now.” Or “I feel so comfortable talking to you.”
  7. Admit your loss for words. For the emergency when you can’t think of anything, be honest about it. “Wow, I’m actually flustered right now” (playfully to a girl). “I got lost thinking about [last topic].” Even “My mind just blanked, where’d we leave off?”

Using these guidelines, you can eliminate your fear of silent moments and embrace them to your advantage. They can be a great tool to open up conversation and connect even deeper with someone. So next time you’re faced with one of these challenges: relax, smile, and remember that silence really is golden.

Do you struggle with holding engaging conversations? Talk to me for a free strategy session.

  1. THemailman on August 15, 2012

    You sir have employed The PERFECT Photo to accompany a post about awkward silences.

    • Nick Notas on August 15, 2012

      Haha thanks, it took me a while to find it. I love Community.

      • Philip on August 31, 2012

        You could have also gone with a picture of Kunal Nayyar 🙂

        • Nick Notas on August 31, 2012

          Didn’t even think of it, would’ve been a perfect fit as well.

  2. Jess on August 15, 2012

    Thanks for the insight, it’s good for girls too! I tend to fidget or adjust my hair during awkward silences but you’ve given me some good pointers.

  3. Ande E on February 19, 2013

    Any excuse to reference Pulp Fiction.

  4. Trent Kuhn on November 23, 2013

    Too bad smoking a cigarette in silence is 1000x cooler than just sitting in silence lol