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Why We Hate Awkward Silences And How To Handle It With Grace?

Why We Hate Awkward Silences And How To Handle It With Grace?

There is nothing unsettling in a conversation than awkward silence. It can happen on a first date, a business meeting or during good old professional networking. But, why is it a bad thing? After all, in most cases, it is just a few seconds of silence.

Why is silence awkward?

A 2008 research paper published in the Journal of Legal Studies points that conversation more than the mere exchange of information and the social dynamic of a conversation can be compared to other cooperative social activities such as dancing together. It is stated, that when dancing together, the coordinated movements of two partners arouses a variety of positive emotions.

Similarly, the fluency of a conversation indicates a positive state of affairs and results in positive feelings. Hence, silences are particularly disturbing, especially if they disrupt the conversational flow. According to Roberta Piazza , silences are often used to signal non-compliance or confrontation and are also known as disaffiliative disfluencies.

A 2011 Dutch study found that people who were forced to watch a long pause in the conversation felt "distressed, afraid, hurt, and rejected". Four seconds of silence is all it takes to make us feel uncomfortable, the study says. These researchers from the University of Groningen demonstrated that fluent conversations are associated with feelings of belonging, self-esteem, and social validation, and a brief silence disrupt this fluency, negative emotions and feelings of rejection arise as a result.

In short, we generally feel socially rejected when a silence arises in a conversation leading to the feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. Even though the moments of silence are uncomfortable for everyone, as per experts you should be embracing it rather than fearing the silence.

So,how do you get your conversation flow back on track after an awkward silence?

Don't break the eye contact

Eye contact is the most important element of non-verbal communication. Dr. Steven Berglas speaking to Inc , points out that, you must be using your non-verbal communication skills to get the conversation back on track.

"Don't break eye contact. Maintaining eye contact is the best thing you can do, and, if you see the other person stops talking, just ask if something is amiss. Don't let the silence linger or both parties will start spinning negative interpretations", says Berglas.

Use the Thread Theory

In her piece for the Time Magazine , Vanessa Van Edwards asks us to imagine that each person is walking around carrying a big knotted ball of string. All of these imaginary strings represent their thoughts, ideas, interests, and opinions. She suggests that, at the beginning of every new interaction, try to tease out some of these 'thought -string' from the other person. And the more threads you can discover, the more you will able to talk about.

According to Vanessa Van Edwards, there are three main categories of commonalities you can pull from any time, which are mutual contacts, shared interests, and common things. Try to see if you the other person share any of these three 'commonalities' and follow your conversation by exploring them when an awkward silence arise. And finally, if you are having a special interaction with someone, the thread theory says you can take your connection to the next level by using your common thread to create a tie.

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