Have you experienced an awkward silence when you are with a friend or in a group? What did you do? Did you try to fill the awkward silence, or let it be?
When old friends meet and the initial set of topics that focus on checks & balances in each other’s lives get over.. sometimes there is this awkward silence – when the room goes quiet.
When you are in an office meeting and the topic of discussion has created a rift in thought processes and no one knows what to say anymore… there is an awkward silence…!
When you are chatting with your children and the topic gets into an out-of-syllabus zone that you do not know the answers to their questions.. there is an awkward silence.
What do you do? How do you approach it?
Some ways that I have seen these get filled and their outcome..!
1. Say something funny
When someone in the group says something funny, the silence is broken. Sometimes if the room is filled with a kind of unspoken tension, then something funny typically lightens up the mood. Some in the room might get irritated, few may laugh, few may use the opportunity to get up and move from the place.
2. Take a 5 minute break
Not everyone might agree to a specific point-of-view or next-step-forward. When many alternatives have been spoken and discussed at length and then the room goes silent, take a 5 minute break. It helps everyone switch their minds to something else and come back to refocus on the issue at hand. Many a times, when the group reconvenes, a new set of perspectives or talking points emerge which typically lead to a way forward.
3. Amongst friends
Usually friends feel the silence to be comfortable between them. When that turns into an awkward silence, it is a cue for some heart-to-heart conversations. The silence can lead to two outcomes – deep conversations or connecting with someone else to talk about their situation. Sometimes we tend to need a different circle to interact who understands our challenges and is able to appreciate them and if this group or person cannot understand, be understanding and support them in their decisions.
4. Let the silence remain
Sometimes, letting the silence remain is great. Do not fill the silence and see what happens. The quietest in the room typically use this time to formulate their thought processes and speak up. When the silence remains, it gets awkward and when it continues, innermost thoughts & perspectives get spoken. During that awkward silence, everyone is ready and willing to listen to what would be spoken next. Thinkers know how to use the power of this silence quite well and make the best use of it by communicating their ideas during this time.
When you are looking for a breakthrough, try not to fill the awkward silence and wait to see how the conversation turns out!