Overcoming that Awkward Silence

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 I have had this happen to even friends. It's like I suddenly ran out of things to say! What do you do when this occurs?

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 social situations where you're networking or at a party and you're trying to mix and mingle. 

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 tips I find helpful:

  • I will compliment their outfit. 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. For example, how long have they lived there? If you're at a company conference, 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.
  • Probe them about the area. Suppose you're traveling to a conference and you're unfamiliar with the location, ask them what restaurants would be good for lunch or dinner. They might even have a favorite hang out place that they can recommend.
  • 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.
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 other advice would be to not pretend to be interested in talking to a person if you're generally not connecting. 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.

If your personality is more introverted, you might find yourself dealing with awkward silence a lot more than the 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.

photo courtesy of pixabay.com.