Conversation and awkward silence, where's the happy medium?

Conversation and awkward silence, where's the happy medium?

I have never been a fan of uncomfortable silence. There is a huge difference between being in a room with my husband and not talking and being with a customer or acquaintance that is quiet and relatively non responsive. With my husband, we have had 26 years together to talk. If we aren't saying anything it doesn't mean we have nothing in common or nothing to talk about, we are just comfortable and sometimes don't need conversation.

When I am placed in situations with non responsive people I develop the inability to shut up.  Things just fly out of my mouth faster than I can control. I become a rambler. I want to stuff a rag in my mouth.

Wikipedia defines uncomfortable silence as "Awkward silences may result from a faltering conversation in which the participants have completed what they wanted to say." That can be tough when you are in a setting where the lagging conversation occurs in the first few minutes. This is when I feel the urge to over compensate for the silence. This is when I want to kick my own ass.

I don't know what comes out of my mouth at these times as it is typically anything I can think of to fill the silence. I would like to think of myself as a decent conversationalist; I try to suggest interesting topics that will generate chatter. Yet sometimes the situation falls into what I call "tiny talk"; the sub category of small talk. And that's bad. Very bad. That's when I start to say anything I can think of. I repeat myself. And there are times I fall into the depths of "verbal vomit" which urban dictionary defines as "When any ones mouth runs like diarrhea with useless crap." So you can see why I hate myself at those times.

There are those that do the same thing, yet worse. People that have no problem dominating a conversation with useless information until my eyes are glazed over and I am thinking about something totally unrelated. There are chronic interrupters that don't have a single care about what I am saying and feel that their comments and topics are just that much more interesting than mine. I can start a sentence and within seconds the person I am with will interrupt me with a totally unrelated subject. Or there are the "one-uppers". Anything I say they have to have something better to talk about, or they have a better story on the subject.

So how do people handle awkward silence? Obviously for me I over compensate. Here are 14 tips to help:

Now tell me, what do you do in these situations?

Here is late night host Craig Ferguson during an awkward silence with Steve Carell.


Leave a comment
  • We salespeople have difficulty shutting it sometimes.

  • In reply to Andy Frye:

    True dat.

  • I develop diarrhea of the mouth when I am very, very nervous. Bad, very bad, because I am usually that nervous when I want to make a good impression and diarrhea of the mouth does not make a good impression!!

    I relate to the part about "chronic interrupters" too - once met up in person with someone whose blog posts I greatly admired (someone other than you, obviously :) ), and she turned out to be a chronic interrupter. She even tried to one-up my then 2 year old in conversation....geez, why would a 50-something woman want to steal the limelight from a 2 year old?!!

  • In reply to jiyer:

    That 50 something woman doesn't care who is talking, a 2 year old, a 20 year old, etc. She just wants to hear herself talk and make sure her idle chatter appears better and more interesting. Ugh.

    I too develop the verbal vomit when I am extremely nervous. Which unfortunately is when I am with clients who don't talk much. Soooo uncomfortable!!

Leave a comment