Have you ever been in one of those embarrassing situations when mid-way into a blossoming conversation with someone new you both ran out of words to say to each other and there fell a sudden silence? These situations are sometimes unavoidable even where you’ve become the past master at the art of starting unforgettable conversations with strangers – there will still come times when an unfolding chit chat will be stymied by interludes of momentary silence resulting in unbearable unease. I’ve to tell you, I’ve been in such situations more times than I care to remember, and I can tell you it was a little scary trying to figure out what to say to keep the conversation going. Sometimes I racked my brains for what to say only to come up with zilch. Stared bleakly into the roof and couldn’t bring myself to look the other person in the eye. And that point, the only thing I sure felt like really doing was turn around and run far, far, away from this cringeworthy scene – Had I been a child!
You and I aren’t in this alone, to be sure, as even some of the most skilled conversationalists have found themselves lost for words mid-way through a conversation. But they have somehow still managed to extricate themselves from these ruinous gauche social scenarios with their reputations intact. So how about we take a look at some of ways you can deal with these compromising scenarios whenever they spring up during any chitchat.
#1 Be Attentive and Observant
Being attentive and observant means you would never run of what to say as you listen to the other person. The reason our small talk with people sometimes lulls into awkward silence is because we don’t often pay attention to whoever we are talking with to pick up useful clues about them that we could use to dig deeper to know more about them as our conversation flickers on. This often happens because when we are engrossed in thinking about a striking one liner that would impress the person on the other end. So it’s often better to be attentive, to be present in the conversation while also actively listening and reacting to whatever we hear the other person saying. Conversations are best when they are spontaneous and when spend half of the time thinking of our next-move, this can take the fun right out of it.
#2 Ask Them Random But Not Inappropriate Questions.
Asking the people we converse with the right question could help keep a conversation going and when well-timed can galvanize others into telling us more about themselves. There’s one trait that is inherent in human nature even as Dale Carnegies “How to Win Friends and Influence People” has further given credence, people want to be heard, they want to talk volumes about themselves and when you realize this, you can get anyone into telling you more about themselves while you are content listening. Asking people we talk to questions does just that. But to work, our questions must be direct and open ended. Asking a generic question could lead to a yes/no answer bringing an otherwise promising conversation to an unexpected halt.
“So you lived in Paris with your parents as a teenager, wow that sounds amazing! So what was it like living in Paris?” This is just an example of the kind of question that could get people to tell you more about themselves or their personal experience. You can ask them other questions about their interests or hopes and dreams. Here are some other examples;
Tell me more about…?
The secret to having exciting conversations is appearing interested in whomever you are talking with, like I said earlier. Using this line reflects curiosity and tells the other person you care more than just exchanging pleasantries with them. “Tell me more about what you do” would be a good place to start.
How did you get into…?
We all love stories and asking someone about how they got into their roles in their respective professions will open up interesting stories and topics for further discussion.
What is your biggest challenge…?
There isn’t a single person on this planet who isn’t facing a challenge, wealthy or middle class. As a matter of fact, we all encounter challenges of some sorts whether it’s in our professional or personal lives. We all want a listening ear sometimes to recount our personal challenges. Asking someone about their biggest challenges acts as an icebreaker, gets them talking while providing us with more insights about them.
#3 Comment On The Silence
Well this may sound embarrassingly funny but in most cases it does work. You have to understand that the person you are in a conversation with might be feeling the awkwardness too and will also likely have run out things to say. So commenting on the silence could clear the discomfort in the air and get you both talking again. Just say “well this is awkward!” and smile. Saying that will turn the awkwardness into something amusing and the person on the other end may even laugh it off.
#4 Comment On A Current Event
I’m sure you’ve been reading the news to keep up with current events in politics and entertainment. If yes, that would mean you are current, right? You can use current happenings in the news to end an awkward silence in a conversation. Commenting on things most people are familiar with is a great way to change the conversation. “Oh, did you see that man in the news who spent 4 hours trapped in the chimney after locking himself out?” if the person hasn’t seen it, pull out your phone and show them immediately. And just like that, you’ll both get the conversation going again with the change of topic.
#5 Excuse Yourself From The Conversation
An awkward silence during a conversation doesn’t necessarily mean that the conversation is boring. Truth is, skilled conversationalists have utilized the silence to either change the topic or bring the conversation to an end. A period of silence can also mean that it’s time to take your leave of whoever you are conversing with to bring the seeming unease to a stop. To do this, you can say things like; “I’m going to grab a bite”, “It’s getting late, I have to run”.
You can trust these simple tips shared above to get you out of any awkward silence if you will just remember to try them out. Now you can bite the bullet in those situations instead of turning and running like I’ve felt some times.