Conversation and That Awkward Moment of Silence

Can you prevent that moment of awkward silence? Even if it’s only 5 seconds between topics, a moment of silence during an ongoing conversation with a business client can both create awkwardness and hurt your credibility.

BY: JON VISAISOUK ON FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16, 2012
Conversation and That Awkward Moment of Silence

Have you ever been in mid-conversation with another person with whom you aren’t completely familiar with, when there is an awkward moment of silence between you?

 

Can you prevent that moment of awkward silence? Even if it’s only 5 seconds between topics, a moment of silence during an ongoing conversation with a (potential) business client can both create awkwardness and hurt your credibility.

 

As social media networking, email use, and mobile technology explode, many established business people fear that younger generations are losing the skilled art of conversation. Instead of regular face-to-face meetings, we fire off a few emails, connect through LinkedIn and Facebook, follow and retweet on Twitter, or perhaps even send a couple of text messages.

 

But you might be hard-pressed to find a replacement for face-to-face meetings, as Yvonne DiVita explains in a recent Chamber of Commerce post. As much power as online networking holds, business is still about people, and it is much easier to create a real and substantial relationship by meeting in real life as opposed to online interactions.

 

So when you do meet people face-to-face, how is your conversation game?

 

Moments of silence in conversation – good or bad?


Don’t get me wrong – online networking and online conversations can be extremely important, and it’s easy to sit down and craft the perfect message. There’s time to think and re-think about what you really want to say, and then say it how you want to say it. But, when meeting face-to-face, you don’t get the same opportunity to make sure your message is exactly how you want it to be.

 

Now, it’s important to realize there are different types of silence. If you or the person you are conversing with needs a moment to fully understand a statement, or needs a moment to contemplate a reply, that is natural.

 

However, people can usually sense when a moment of silence becomes awkward. You might catch someone’s eyes glance to the side, or you might feel the need to blurt out whatever comes to mind, just to kill the silence.

 

I sense an awkward silence – what do I do now?

 

The tendency for a conversation to ‘get suck’ at certain points is relatively common, and it can be difficult to keep the conversation flowing the direction you want it to. Here are a few things you may want to keep in mind.

  • Ask a question. If you want to break the silence or keep a conversation flowing, but can’t think of the right thing to say, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Asking questions is a great way to show that you are interested in your conversation partner, and takes the pressure off of you to speak up. However, you may want to ask open ended questions, as opposed to questions that just warrant a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

  • Let your actions do the talking. If there is a break in the conversation, it may be a good time to take a sip of your coffee, or take a bite of your meal. This should be straightforward, but please do NOT look at your phone. This is usually construed as disrespectful.

  • Do your homework. If you know who you will be speaking with, prepare to speak with them. Do some homework and find out some of their interests or details about their company or job. If you don’t know who you will be speaking with in particular, you may want to prepare a broader range of conversation topics that are industry related, in recent local news, or perhaps even small talk.

  • Utilize small talk. If appropriate, don’t forget about making small talk. Depending on your relationship, small talk can be a big part of business. In many parts of the world, creating strong business relationships depends on creating strong personal relationships first, and small talk can make a conversation seem friendlier. However, if the conversation is very business oriented, be cautious about changing the subject.

Photo: Collegehumor.com

About the Author

Jon Visaisouk Jon Visaisouk is the Western Regional Manager for ANTVibes. Jon’s writing focuses on cross-cultural communication, small business advice, and customer service.
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