How to Cope With Awkward Silence

Again, comes those awkward silences. There comes a tension build-up, and there is nothing to say. How do you cope with these?!?!


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    Consider whether you should even care that there is silence. Some people feel more comfortable than others during 'awkward' silences. These people may not particularly enjoy meaningless small talk. They may even enjoy silence: a comfortable silence can be a sign of closeness between two people. If so, just try to relish in the silence for a bit. If the silence is indeed awkward for both parties, continue to the next steps.
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    Ascertain the reason for the silence. Is the silence legitimate? Should you stay quiet because you are at a library or a museum for instance? Is the silence awkward because you are with new, hard-to-read people? Could it be because you're with a friend that got into trouble while you were over? All these situations will need different handling.
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    Abide in the silence. If the silence make you feel anxious, it would be mature and prudent to acknowledge the silence as a moment to reflect. Take a few deep breaths, wait a few minutes (take a walk or change room if possible) and evaluate if breaking the silence would lessen tensions.
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    Don't think that it's your responsibility to get things moving. Some awkward silences are the sound of people realizing something important - may not be pleasant, but important nonetheless.
    • If the silence is due to a friend getting in trouble in front of you (in which case it is usually best to excuse yourself), or because you need to change the subject for parents who just came in, or because of new or disapproving relatives, consider this: Not all silences need to be broken by you, even if they are awkward.
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    Try to excuse yourself. If you are witness to your friend getting yelled at, it's best to leave and allow the family to resolve its problem. You certainly should not intervene - this is not your business - unless the parent asks you a pointed question. Your answer might help your friend out - or not - either way, answer truthfully. If you have an awkward situation with relatives, and your best efforts to win them over still result in stilted, stiff exchanges or awkward silences, simply get up and leave. Going outside to sit on the patio or simply refusing to put up with "the silent treatment" is probably your best bet.
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    Break the ice if the silence is simply due to not knowing the people around you very well. It is hard, but you need to come up with a good topic to talk about that everyone likes.
    • Say something. "Why are we all so silent?" isn't as good as making a new topic, but it is a good way to at least get some sound in the room. Or talk about your newest nails.
    • Be prepared with a topic, like a movie you've just seen, a new book you finished reading, some neutral news or current events, or new developments in one another's lives. Keep in touch with each others' lives.
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    Don't stand for mistreatment if the silence is a form of hostility. If someone is giving you the Silent Treatment without a clear understandable reason: know that this type of attitude is unacceptable and may cause you to doubt yourself for unfair reasons. The Silent Treatment is passive-aggressive type of psychological violence. Therefore it should not be mistaken for an awkward silence. In any case, life is too short to subject yourself to situations where people refuse to be tolerant or comprehensive.


  • If your family is the rude one, treating your new spouse with this sort of passive hostility, speak to them right away, and try to head off problems before they become very difficult to overcome. Try going to them (leave your spouse at home) and saying, "Mom, Dad, I understand that you don't approve of my marriage. Nevertheless, I insist you stop treating Lisa so coldly. It's beneath you, and I won't tolerate it." Any objections are easily overcome. Tell them, "I'm an adult, and whether or not you like her, Lisa is my wife now. If you continue to make her feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, I'm not going to force her to put up with you. Either accept and be kind to her, or understand that we won't be coming over here." If you make it very clear very early on that you understand what they are trying to do, and that you refuse to be manipulated or controlled this way, they will either come around and knock it off, or else their behavior will dictate your next step. Put your money where your mouth is and stay away from them for the sake of your marriage. Trying to avoid ruffling your parents' feathers at the expense of the respect of your wife is no way to run a marriage.
  • If you see that the conversation is boring, excuse yourself and leave. Say something like "I think it's time that I go,(take a peek at any time-telling device and say -) it's getting kind of late." or "Goodness, is it really (time goes here, ex 9:00)? I'd better get going!" People will excuse you. Don't do this a few seconds into a conversation. Then it is just rude. Try changing the subject a tad, and little by little it will probably be sparkling everyone's interest. If you have a phone with a planner or calendar, pretend to be scrolling through appointments, and say "I have obligations tomorrow, I should be on my way".


  • Do not gossip. |It happens, but as soon as you sense that the conversation is heading towards gossip, change the subject as quickly as possible. Or, if you must, keep your views polite and non-biased. Instead of saying "Her dress was so ugly!" say "If she likes it, that's the best part."

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Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions