Admit it, it’s happened to you before – the dreaded silence that feels like it can last a lifetime. But don’t fret! Next time you’re in that cringing moment, consider these tips.
1. Ask questions
Obvious right? But there’s actually an art behind this, and it’s not asking them whether or not they like cheese. Ask them things that will spark interest. For example, ask about them (where are they working?), their experiences (where have they travelled to?), their interests/passions (what do they enjoy doing most?), hopes and dreams (future plans or goals?)
2. Think back on previous topics
Make the effort to listen to what they’ve been talking about. If they went on a trip around Europe, ask them where they went or if they would recommend any particular places. But of course keeping in mind whether or not that topic interests them. If they seemed bored talking about their job, don’t bring it up again…
3. What do you mean? Could you elaborate?
Ask them to explain themselves a little more. Why do they find their job boring? This is a simple way to keep the conversation going, and you might be able to pick up on a few traits that you could ask afterwards!
4. Don’t conduct an interview
When we say ask questions, we don’t mean in a scripted manner. Make sure you throw in some comments in between and put yourself in the picture. If they loved Frozen, share how much you liked it too! Or if not, maybe your friends watched it a dozen times. Communication is a two way street and as much as people enjoy talking about themselves, they also don’t want to be the ONLY one talking.
5. NEVER comment on the awkward silence
That’s it. There’s no saving it from that point. I trust I need not elaborate…
6. Don’t end with a statement
Although this is fine with people you’re close with or know well, with someone who you’ve just met or aren’t familiar with, it doesn’t provide much room for a response. Make sure to finish with a relatable question to keep the conversation flowing.
If you’re in one of those moods where you’re not really keen on listening to them talk, then just politely excuse yourself. Tell them you’re meeting someone or you need to be somewhere. But if you’re in one of those situations where you kind of HAVE to make small talk, then consider the above tips. Who knows, you might find out some common interests and having a really amazing conversation!
For more details, you can read about David Morin (Social Life expert) and Viktor Sander’s (Behavioural Scientist) article here