Like words, silence is also a tool for conversation. Silence is frightening because it feels like the conversation hits a wall when what it really provides is time to process the conversation and collect our thoughts. Let’s look at some ways silence is used in conversation and how we can become more comfortable with using it in conversation
First, let’s picture what it’s like when we’re with the people we’re closest to. Are there ever any moments where there is silence? Not in the middle of a party, but after it there might be. A quite comfort that doesn’t need to be broken as everyone rests and processes the experience. It’s quite relaxing when we can comfortably enjoy silence with others. The same happens in a conversation.
There are some people who can carry on a conversation like a marathon with no breaks, but others are more comfortable with doing sprints with breaks in between. Silence gives us that break to stretch, collect our thoughts, and decide how to move forward with the conversation. The big fear is that the conversation will stop and won’t be able to pick back up again.
The most useful part of silence is it gives the conversation the opportunity to go in a new direction. Starting a conversation back up is like starting a fresh conversation. Start with a question, show interest in them, and ask about something we’re interested in. Just be sure to avoid yes or no questions, and it’s good to have a follow-up question ready. The more comfortable we are getting a conversation restarted the easier starting new conversations will be.
Silence can be a sign of comfort, but what do we do during the silence? Take a breath, think back to anything we want to ask about, and take a moment to see what’s around us. Alternatives to starting a conversation back up are to go with a compliment or sharing appreciation. This gives us the chance to share something we’ve observed about the other person and to let them know they are valued and appreciated.
At its very core conversations take two, and the break taken with silence doesn’t have to be ended by us. They have just as much opportunity to break the silence as we do. Silence gives them the opportunity to guide the conversation as well. Being comfortable with silence also gives an air of confidence.
There are a lot of benefits that come with being comfortable with conversational silence. Being able to use it comfortably takes practice, but it’s always useful to have another tool for conversation. I’m more than happy to lend support and ideas on how to become more comfortable with silence. Schedule a free Exploratory Session with me so we can find how I can best lend support.