We’ve all been there. You’re having a conversation with someone, doing your best, but it just isn’t working. Heavy silences keep falling. You’re torn between wanting to wave happily goodbye and run away, and somehow make it work, for pity’s sake. A communication coach has this to say: (N.B. the following paraphrasing may have a slightly negative tone.)
1. Think Less, Talk More: Don’t think about something specific or interesting to say, just babble whatever comes to mind, regardless of what it is.
2. Get Excited and Curious: Be really nosy. If the other person isn’t forthcoming with information, persevere. Eventually they’ll give in.
3. Keep the Silence, Remove the Awkward: Sometimes, just let the silence stew and grow until you know the other person is just about ready to cry. If they seem too relaxed, try staring at them without saying anything to speed things along.
Ok, some of this article seems aimed at “romantic” situations, but it doesn’t really matter. Are you serious? Let me give it a shot.
1. Put in some effort: Yes, try at first. Make small talk. See if there’s a common ground you can work with. If there isn’t… walk away.
2. Be interested in the other person: Again, yes, ask questions. A FEW. When you know their blood type, you’ve gone way too far. If they aren’t responding well, walk away.
3. Allow time to think: A few seconds of silence is ok. Take another sip of your drink. Clear your throat. Check your phone. Whatever. Look around for someone to save you. And then, you know what? WALK AWAY.
Awkward silences are awkward. Recognise it. If it isn’t working, you need to move on. Be honest. Sigh deeply. Raise your eyebrows. Say: “Well this is fun.”. Go to the bathroom. And if it is romantic, pay the bill. End the pain.
Postscript: The comments on the article above were as alarming to me as the article itself, until I came to “james”, who quoted anthropologist Gregory Bateson. God bless you, “james”. The author of the article tells him he’s smart and unique. What a guy.
Last thing: the reason I distinguish “james”, from “James”, is because “James” thinks it’s groovy to fill awkward silences by asking the question “What’s your favourite dinosaur?” Let me paint it for you.
Man: “What’s your favourite dinosaur?”
Woman: (silently to herself) “Oh my God, it’s Ross from “Friends”!
Exit stage right.