Overcoming that Awkward Silence

Overcoming that Awkward Silence

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Have you ever been in a social situation talking to someone when all of a sudden…an awkward silent moment happens? This can happen a lot when we’re talking to strangers, but it’s happened to me when I was among friends. It’s like I suddenly ran out of things to say! What do you do when this occurs?

Even though these days I do more Zooming on my day job than getting together, I still experience these awkward moments. Maybe you do too.

In a business setting where you’re interviewing for a job or talking to a lender about a loan, then you’ll obviously have to handle these differently but for the purpose of this post, I’m only addressing casual social interactions. I have a few suggestions today that I use to help overcome those moments and hopefully you can use some of these tips too.

First off, don’t panic. Your mind is probably thinking up of thousands of things you can say, but if you speak without thinking to fill up the silence, you might regret it. When you’re trying to make a good first impression, there’s bound to be awkward silences when you’re first trying to get to know someone. So here’s a few of my tips I find helpful:

  • Compliment them. Now, I’m not talking about false flattery. Maybe you’re not crazy about what they’re wearing, but you might like their tie or their skirt and you can compliment that…or maybe you like the particular color they’re wearing. I find this helps breaks the ice to allow you to move onto another subject.
  • Ask them questions about themselves. For example, how long have they lived there? If you’re in a company, virtual or in-person setting, you can ask how long have they worked at their firm and what did they do before that. Chances are, they will touch on something that you can piggyback on and comment.
  • Admit you’re a little nervous. Depending on the situation, if you’re experiencing several awkward silent moments, you can politely and kindly say, “Please excuse me, I’m feeling just a little nervous. I’m really glad to meet you though…” You might be surprised that they are probably feeling nervous too and maybe too shy to admit it. This might not work in every situation so use your judgment.
  • If all else fails, pray. Now, I don’t mean pray last! What I mean is, if the small talk isn’t going so well, silently pray for God to give you ideas of what you can talk about. The Lord can really help in these situations. Don’t rule out talking to God even if you feel it’s not necessary.

The main thing here is to get them talking while you intently listen to them looking for certain points that you can interject and keep the conversation interesting.

My last piece of advice would be don’t pretend to be interested in talking to a person if you’re generally not connecting with them. You can tell this after conversing a few minutes. Also, a person can tell if you are not being genuine with them and that will not give them a good first impression of you. You can politely excuse yourself so that you don’t appear rude if you want to cut the conversation short.

If your personality is more introverted, you might find yourself dealing with awkward silences a lot more than an outgoing person, I know I do, but it’s not uncommon and it doesn’t mean you’re a dull person. The more you practice your social skills, the more comfortable you’ll get and the awkward silences will lessen.

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Kim McDougal

Kim is the founder and creator of Growing Up in Grace. By day, she's the Director of Interactive Communications for the Hispanic chamber located in Jax, FL. Kim also owns "Kim's Studio Art" where she creates and sells Wall Art Printables and "Kim's Handcrafted Cards" on eBay where she creates and sells handmade greeting cards.