Anyone else feel like their social skills are still a bit rusty? You're not alone. We’ve been living in our own bubbles so long that getting back into social situations can be a bit intense.
Lots of things can get in the way of conversations flowing. We may not know what to talk about, our minds may be blank, or we are waiting on the other person to say something.
Whatever your reasoning, what's the deal with awkward silences? And how do we avoid or get ourselves out of them?
Get them talking!
One issue with awkward silences is feeling like we don’t know what to say! Luckily, we don’t have to fill the space ourselves. Conversations are a two way street. If we don’t know what to say that's okay! We aren't the only one sitting in the awkward silence so it doesn't make sense to take on all the responsibility for creating AND sustaining conversation!
Think of Conversations like a Game (for fun)
Conversation shouldn't be like a competitive volleyball game, we aren’t spiking the ball over in hopes of winning. We are hoping to create that smooth soft volley back and forth. Sometimes we get into a rhythm, sometimes we don't. We can give ourselves the best chance by mentally looking for opportunities to be gentle and ‘pass’ the conversation back.
It can help to identify things to say/questions to ask that might work for several different kinds of people. This way if you are talking to one person or a mixed group you can have some tools in your toolbox and avoid the ‘blank mind’ scenario.
“What are your plans this weekend?”
“Whats your favorite aspect of your career?”
“What’s in you're drink?”
Use Open Ended Questions
There’s nothing worse than finally building up the courage to break the awkward silence and getting back a ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘fine’. Ouch! Asking questions that require a bit of explanation allow for two things. The first is the person you are speaking to now has the floor and will likely elaborate further, which gives you more details to talk about. The second thing is it does is allow the person to feel interesting. This helps them WANT to keep talking and feeling good! Voilà!
The other person, or people, you are speaking to may notice you feel awkward with the silence. They might too! Sometimes awkward moments happen. The key is understanding that they are uncomfortable but that's all! The discomfort you are feeling is guaranteed to pass.
Its also a huge possibility that the other person is experiencing the situation differently. They may feel completely comfortable in your presence and just be sitting! (It happens!!) Regardless, the best thing you can do is to center yourself. A few breaths can help clear your mind.
In some relationships we reach the level of comfortable silences. These are the best! It usually takes some time tolerating discomfort to get there in any situation.
Facing awkward situations can be hard, but you can do hard things!