Oh no, what do I say now?
So this is going well, isn't it?
If you are like me, you are a master of awkward silence. You can create it in any conversation, no matter the time or place.
You try to stay engaged. You try to listen and build on what they say. You try to think of interesting comments, stories, or questions.
But in the end, your mind goes blank.
You realize that they are waiting on you to contribute, but you are caught.
The silence creeps up from your gut, through your chest, into your neck and face, then right to your eyes, which shift away from them or even shut as if you are looking into your brain for something, anything, to say.
Could this be your last date? Could this be the end of a potential business deal? Could this be that familiar wall that blocks potential friends from knowing the real you?
What brought you to this point?
There are many potential causes of awkward silence. Many of them are preventable, even if you are a shy, introverted, Harry Potter reader like me.
1. You are letting them control the conversation
They say something interesting. You smile, nod and say an affirming 'yes.' They elaborate. You add a trite response. They stare at you like you're a fish in a tank whose canned response is a flap of the gills.
There is one word for a one-sided conversation: boring.
This reminds me of my agonizing first date. Of course it was all set up by friends. How could I get a date when I never spoke to girls?
After she asked "Are you paying for this?" in front of the cashier at Taco Bell, we sat down to our meal.
She began inquiring about me, and I answered with short facts, then just asked the same question back to her. I never thought of one original question or engaging story.
After a few painful minutes and a soft taco, the awkward silence was ended by her: "Well, my friends are waiting for me, so..."
Letting her control the conversation led to my doom. And weird glances whenever she saw me again. Do I even have to mention we had no second date?
2. You have no purpose for the conversation
You sometimes just enter conversations because the person happens to be in a place near you and it would be weird for them not to talk to you.
Other times, you speak to someone because you think it is the right thing to do, but you don't know why exactly. You do know that you are terrified of being rejected by them though.
If your only purpose is to avoid rejection, embarrassment, or failure, then you will always get awkward silence.
Fear will lead you to withhold emotion, stories, opinions that might differ, and anything that will make you unique, which are all things that make good conversation.
Some conversations have a clear purpose, like finding out information or planning events. But most are more spontaneous. In that case, what is the purpose?
The purpose of most conversations is mutual enjoyment.
Having a purpose of joy will lead to humor, excitement, and fascination.
3. You lack social skills knowledge or the ability to use your knowledge
If you have read this far, you are like me. Social skills are not natural for you.
You might have read other blogs or books on how to talk to people. But you are missing something. It is not working.
There are techniques that work to avoid awkward silence. You have probably read about some of them. But it is so hard to change your ingrained social habits.
You feel like you are hindered by your personality, or upbringing, or physical appearance, or various other barriers to social success.
These make it hard to improve socially. But it is not impossible. You can learn and get experience that eradicates awkward silence from your life.
I created a quick guide that gives you techniques you can use today that instantly improve your conversations. Sign up below to receive it free!