The awkward silent moments in our conversations

   Have you ever wondered what’s the reason for these silent moments we encounter while talking to someone? It’s like someone hits pause on our brain and all we can think of is What should I say now? And it’s probably the same for that person too since it takes two to have a conversation.

   What’s interesting is that this is not happening with everyone. There are people we encounter these moments very often, others with whom we don’t encounter at all. There are also people with whom we encounter the silence at the beginning and after a while, it disappears. What’s changed from a person to another or from a moment to another?

   I believe this has to do with the way we perceive that person. If it’s someone we like (like a friend), it’s easier to have a fluent conversation because the fear for judgment is pretty low (with some friends, at least). Also, when we’re talking to a friend, we know things about that person so we can talk about common interests, a think that cannot happen with a stranger since we know nothing about that person. I think this is the second reason these moments appear.

   Basically, we want for that person we’re talking to form and have a good opinion about us. When that person is a friend (a true friend), we already know if he/she has a good opinion about us and we don’t worry about that. Instead, we focus on what we have to say and maybe on what that person has to say too. When we talk to a stranger and we have no topic for conversation, we desperately search for something “interesting” inside our brain, but since we don’t know that person, we cannot rate anything as being interesting. That searching moment is the awkward silence. This is why weather is the number one topic in these conversations. It’s something we all can see and we cannot screw that conversation so no opinion cannot be formed by any of the two (at least, not conscious).

   What can we do in these moments? Well, it’s tricky. I think that the key here is to have and to show interest for that person. Instead of focusing on what should we say, maybe we need to focus on asking great questions so we can find out more about that person (of course, if we want to). We can ask those questions even if we don’t want to know the answers because that conversation partner would feel great about the conversation and maybe he/she would ask some questions too. If we don’t have any interest for knowing that person better, we don’t even have to worry about these moments. The whole conversation can be a silent moment, right?

   Why do you think these silent moments appear?

34 thoughts on “The awkward silent moments in our conversations

  1. It depends on the context of the conversation. Perhaps the person is considering their words in a way that could be comprehended. Or they don’t want to talk because small talk can be awkward.
    I tend to not have a filter between my brain and my mouth. I’ll happily yap away because I know people like to have background noise. Like the tv or radio on in the background.
    I don’t like noise because I find it to be a distraction. I like to listen to music to enjoy it. Or watch media to watch it. I know that these things can be distracting and I need as much help as possible to keep on track and focused. Like on the direction of the conversation and the other person.

      1. Yes and no. It’s how we choose to spend our time while also keeping up with the ever changing demands of society. There is a wealth of knowledge and information available for us to digest and experience. Now not only are we able to appreciate the stuff we have we also covet all the stuff we “miss out on”. Which isn’t any different than what it was like beforehand, but now people just know about it. Fear of missing out.

  2. Great food for thought! Thanks for this…

    I am very grateful for times of silence in therapy in both roles as they usually can signify a time of deep connection. Of course, these moments are sometimes difficult to contain and things are different as to how each one of us experiences them.

    There many different types of silence and I think Paul Goodman did a great job in spelling them out! Check here:

  3. I used to ask questions all the time and take an interest in other people – it’s the best way to keep the conversation flowing and to make people feel good. The problem was, I ended up with one-sided friendships where I was always listening to and supporting everyone else, but getting very little out of the friendships for myself.

    I’ve kind of learned to sit with the uncomfortableness when those silences appear. I just breathe through them. Sometimes the conversion starts up again, sometimes it doesn’t.

    And then there’s those rare, amazing times where you find someone you can sit in silence with and not feel uncomfortable.

  4. I like your points, though of course there are some I would add.

    For me, it’s worth remembering that everyone you have ever known, and will ever meet, is at first a stranger. Before they are friends, it is equally possible to have a conversation without silence or pause, and to connect so readily it takes zero effort.

    This kind of backs up your points, because it shows us that thought is actually the pausing factor. We are perhaps, overthinking, about something we have no evidence on. Why are we thinking that maybe we are not interesting. if we have no evidence to support it?

    So yes, talking about something that relates to the other person is a great way to get around this, because like you say, even if we aren’t essentially interested in the answer, we are interested in TALKING.

    What I would also add is this; the person I considered one of my most compatible, was perfectly happy for us both to be silent. To be silent with another, and yet have a greater connection, for me is a sign of something beyond words, in a way that only our souls know.

    1. Thank you so much for this insight! Yes, you’re right. I haven’t included silence as a communication enhancer, but more like that awkward moment that creates anxiety.

  5. Sometimes it’s also because everything has been said and there are no words left to make things better. But if that’s the case, then maybe words is not what we need. Silence can go a long way. It can hurt, but it can also heal.

      1. That is the question. Hurting and healing seem mutually exclusive, but are they really? Sometimes we need to break before we can heal.

  6. I think it’s just as you said, we get nervous and don’t want to say the wrong things. I do just as you said and just ask questions to get to know the person better.

  7. Those moments are uncomfortably awkward for me, but then I’m an introvert. I generally end up saying something incredibly stupid.

  8. I practice to keep pause as much as it possible.
    As a principle.
    If you try to make incessant “patting” you show your position is lower.
    The best way to show your wit is not to be eager to show your wit.
    it’s a difficult.

    1. It is difficult. It probably depends on what’s important for you and what you want outcome do you want from that conversation.

  9. I don’t talk much with people, get freak out easily in public, or have to talk be friendly like bff type, i can’t. Usually having awkward silent after few minutes conversation started.

  10. I believe there are also those people with whom you can sit in complete silence with… and even though your thoughts do wonder, you don’t feel the pressing need to SAY SOMETHING. The moments just weave in and out of the conversation, or the other way around ☺️

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