You find yourself at a cocktail party.
Appetizers and drinks float through the air, accompanied by the buzz of conversation around you – your colleague and you make your way through the crowd – just to be stopped by an acquaintance. Your friend carries on. You offer a ‘hi’, and receive one in reply. You make a few pleasantries, and then –
The silence runs for seconds but feels like agonizing hours – this is the strength of the dreaded ‘awkward silence’.
One of the major reasons why conversations often feel like biking uphill is the fact that we often resort to the easy way out – choosing to avoid emotionally investing ourselves in the dialogue. Emotion is aroused in people when the conversation brings itself to topics that mean something to the parties involved – here’s how to bring that extra punch that leaves people remembering your name after you bid them goodbye:
- Understand that silence is contextual.
Oftentimes in conversation, you will come to understand that silence has a meaning of its own – it gives the conversation a chance to take a deep breath and resume. A lot can be expressed sans-words as well, through facial expression, body language and even the way you regard a person in silence can convey strong emotions of trust, romance or if desired, even seriousness. Remember – a good silence is much better than using haphazard words, sometimes even better so.
- Observe your environment.
A staple of good conversation is the need to maintain healthy eye-contact and focus on the person before you – this means that during a conversation (especially when casting first impressions) we tend to forget about our surroundings. A period of silence can be made beneficial by using the break of attention to focus on what’s around you – mutual friends at a party, an interesting person or event happening around you or even someone to ask to come over and join your conversation. Pull it off right, and your partner will be thankful too.
- Show curiosity.
Nothing really flatters someone more than a good dose of curiosity. Ask questions. Make observations. Your partner may have mentioned a recent trip abroad – it’s obvious that it matters to them. Get them to spill the beans on something that they’re passionate about and you’ll have a conversation that flows effortlessly – just be alert enough to pick out something worthwhile to ask – no-one wants to get into the finer points of discussion about topics of mediocrity.
- Talk about the conversation itself.
Awkward silences most often happen after talking continuously until you hit a roadblock with a person – while this may feel like you have run out of topics to talk about, it does give you a new one – the conversation itself. Telling someone that you’re having a good time, or just enjoying conversing with them is a great way to get the ball rolling again, all while making your partner feel that extra bit better.
- Honesty works.
Sometimes, it’s best to just be honest and admit to the person you’re with that you don’t really have anything to say, your mind blanked out or you’re feeling flustered – anything relevant. Remember – you don’t have an explicit responsibility to continue the conversation – your partner may most likely pick it up from there and cut you some slack.
The art of conversation is possibly the most useful one you’ll ever learn – and sometimes you need to learn how to converse even in silence. These tips ought to definitely see you through.