Conversation is something we do constantly with a range of people. Sometimes it comes easy and other times we can draw a blank. The silence can be deafening & uncomfortable. What’s more, conversations are a terrific opportunity to connect with people and learn, so it’s unfortunate to waste one. How can we avoid awkward silences?

1. Treat conversations as an opportunity to learn: Even in the age of the internet, you don’t know everything about everything. The person you are talking to knows a lot about something interesting that you don’t. They will be able to talk about it in depth, and you will have plenty of scope for asking questions. Find out about their hobbies, interests or passions.

2. Discuss topics that you are passionate about: Don’t ask people about their job if they are simply doing it to pay the bills. Ask them about their band, the book they’re writing, their holiday plans. They will reciprocate and you will both be able to enthusiastically talk at length.

3. Ask a question about something you are pondering: Have you been pondering if there is a God? Have you been wondering how to find happiness in life? If you have a big question that is on your heart, ask whoever you are with. Asking a question you are genuinely interested in hearing an answer to will naturally be engaging. Perhaps you won’t agree with their answer, but it can be food for thought.

4. Don’t make vanilla comments, ask questions that will lead to a meaty conversation: Vanilla questions are fluff fillers, like comments on the weather or sport, easy common ground to discuss that is often impersonal and uninteresting. Try asking a question that the person hasn’t been asked before, one that requires thought and can be explored. Eg: “If you were to make a movie, what would it be about?”

5. When a conversation starts getting deep, don’t brush it off: So much of our conversation is light that we can be caught off-guard when it goes down a road that becomes moving or personal. Some respond by cutting the conversation off and flipping back to vanilla questions, which sends the signal that you really don’t want to engage with the other person. Embrace the opportunity to grow your relationship with this person, to be real with them.

6. Don’t ask questions with limited answers: When a conversation is struggling, we can clutch at straws to fill the silences. These are questions that can only have one-word answers and won’t extend the conversation beyond the time it takes to ask the question. It will only make the conversation feel more labored, and the awkwardness more obvious.

7. Open a can of worms: Do you have a question that could go haywire? Great. Everyone will be wanting to get their own opinion in. There will be side questions and lots of different directions for the conversation to go in. No awkward silences. Eg: “Should our country get involved in the conflicts of other countries?”

8. Don’t make small talk when having a long conversation: Are you on a road-trip or seated next to someone at a wedding? There is going to be a lot of time for conversation. So don’t perpetually use small talk fillers - asking how the family is or commenting on the rain today. Ask them some big questions you can sink your teeth into at length. Eg: “How will the world change in the next 10 years?”

9. Don’t shut people down: People who are confident in their own opinions can express them without feeling a need to bash the other person’s opinion. Hear someone’s full opinion without interrupting. Listen to them with respect and they will listen to you. Shut them down and they won’t want to talk to you, leading to awkwardness.

10. Have a conversation, not a competition: Some people treat conversations as a way to assert their intelligence over you. These people don’t get a warm response. A conversation should be an exchange of ideas, not a competition.

11. Subscribe to “Awkward Silence: Conversation Starters.”: Awkward Silence send you new interesting conversation starters every week that you can use whenever suitable. Don’t worry about having to think of something to talk about, just check your latest subscription and start a conversation with ease.

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