Have you ever noticed that when you ask a question – and the other person is thinking about what you said – that there is a quiet pause? It is very important to keep your focus, be patient and wait for the answer. Are you comfortable with silence?

Why does Silence feel so awkward?

Whether you are asking a question, giving a speech or having a persuasive conversation, silence should be an ally. The awkwardness we feel is caused by anxiety or insecurity that may be real or imagined. If someone has said something inappropriate, then the awkwardness is real.  Any negative comment will often create an awkward moment (i.e. racial slur, insult, stereotype or gossip). So, avoid negativity and if you don’t have anything good to say, be quiet! 

Should Some Topics Be Avoided?

The old policy of avoiding politics, sex and religion helps prevent awkward silence too. Unless you are around close friends or people that are very interested in particular topics, then you should avoid these subjects. Why? These topics provoke disagreement – that’s why. So, what do you talk about at parties? My father, a UNC Hall of Fame Journalist, is a great conversationalist.  M.S. Van Hecke often says “Try asking  people about their work environment and what they do for a living.” It really works too – I’m constantly amazed at how people open up when it comes to their profession.

Hang On Their Every Word

Ask questions, listen to what they say and laugh at their punch lines! Hang on their every word and ask follow up questions.  Become fascinated with other people and watch how comfortable it is to be silent. This will turn those pauses into a  welcome ally and a chance to have great conversations!


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