Have you ever been in a situation where you hoped that a conversation would go well only to have been disappointed by several awkward pauses that you still regret but can’t take back? If you’ve had such an experience, you know that the consequences can range from embarrassing and socially devastating to insignificant, depending on who you’re talking to. When you’re on a first date or at a job interview, the last thing you want is to look like a poor conversationalist. With that said, here are five tips you can use to avoid awkward pauses in conversation:
1. Know Something About Who You’re Talking to
If it isn’t a spur-of-the-moment conversation and you have a little bit of time to prep, you might want to look into some of the person’s interests and prepare yourself with some discussion material. For example, you could use a site like Deily to research a person’s religion, just in case that is likely to come up at some point.
2. Be Attentive and Ready to Respond
One common cause of an awkward pause is the failure to listen closely to what the other person is saying so that you can quickly formulate and deliver a response. Don’t make the mistake of trying to remember what they said only to forget what you were going to say. Good conversation requires a decent attention span. Practice on focusing on the topic at hand and responding in a timely manner.
3. Learn and Use Some Generic Comments and Questions
You know those cliché comments and questions like “well, the weather is nice today” or “so, where are you from?” While those might seem just as bad as awkward pauses, they’re not – a few icebreakers here and there can actually be quite useful. Any conversation is better than no conversation when you’re in the middle of trying to have a conversation, especially if you’re on a date or are trying to keep a person engaged while you think of something else to talk about.
4. Know When How and When to End the Conversation
Sometimes one or more awkward pauses can happen when a conversation has gone on longer than necessary. When there’s nothing useful left to say, it’s best to politely wrap it up rather than continuing to occupy the other person’s time with random or unnecessary comments.
5. Use Filler Phrases While You Think of What to Say Next
There are always those times when a segment of the conversation comes to a peak and then the bubble bursts and it’s like “okay, so what now?” Instead of just submitting to silence and scratching your chin while you ponder what else to say, try keeping the dialogue going by adding a filler phrase like “that’s funny, that’s really funny,” or “I know right” or “oh, I see.” Doing this serves two purposes: it shows the other person that you’re acknowledging and reacting to what they just said, and it buys you a couple of seconds while you think of what to say next.
Don’t Think About Awkward Pauses Too Much
Ironically, the more you dwell on the possibility of an awkward silence, the more likely it is that one will occur because you won’t be fully involved in the conversation. Thus, try to gradually make the above recommendations part of your conversational habits rather than constantly thinking about them during your next chat.