For those of us with social anxiety, or even just regular shyness, awkward silences are nothing new.
Even the average person has probably experienced something like this every once in a while.
At times, a conversation just doesn’t “click”, or maybe there is nothing to talk about, no matter how hard you try to come up with something.
The average person may think that the experience is uncomfortable, but for us, social anxiety sufferers, it can be downright terrifying.
There are good news, however.
Social interactions are something that can be mastered given time and effort.
Frankly, this irrational fear that accompanies shy and anxious people is the real problem here.
What makes awkward silences so scary?
For most people, having nothing to talk about when around someone else might be uncomfortable.
The reason for that is that, when participating in a conversation, it is expected of us to actually talk to the person in front of us.
This silence makes us think that we have not said enough, or maybe that we have done something wrong.
If you look at this problem through the eyes of a person with social anxiety, however, this trivial issue becomes a real struggle.
The biggest problem with social anxiety is the fact that talking to others becomes very stressful.
You are afraid of being judged, made fun of and ridiculed to an irrational degree.
Even if you are talking to someone that you know well, or maybe even someone in a professional setting such as your banker, these fears are still there.
In other words, when there is silence during a conversation, social anxiety is bound to make the worst out of it.
This silence can result in a nervous breakdown, which will only make the situation worse.
After all, if you were already afraid of others thinking poorly of you, what will they think now?
If you are suffering from social anxiety then confronting this fear is going to be difficult, and even if you aren’t, it still won’t be easy.
Many of us are shy and introverted, after all.
1) You are doing nothing wrong
There is nothing wrong with being around other people with neither of you talking.
In fact, sometimes these silences reflect the natural order of things as they are supposed to be.
For example, when you are done talking about something with someone and neither of you have nothing to say.
In this case, the silence is not awkward at all. You two are done talking, and unless you have something else to talk about then the conversation is pretty much over.
In fact, trying to force a conversation will only make the other person uncomfortable.
It is also important to note that there is nothing wrong with brief moments of quiet when talking to someone.
These moments of silence can are meant for you to gather your thoughts, and should not be seen as awkward.
For example, someone shared a joke with you and you both laughed before trying to remember what you were talking about.
The point here is that there is nothing inherently wrong with silence.
Rather, it is your interpretation of it that makes it as difficult to handle as it is.
Once you learn to tolerate it the experience wouldn’t be nearly, if at all, as bad.
2) Don’t panic during the silence
The worst thing about awkward silences is how you handle them.
Social anxiety sufferers believe that they have done something wrong, and try to do their best to fix the problem.
But, as we have said before, there isn’t really a problem for the most part.
So they make one up.
Trying to make awkward conversation, saying the most random things, just to make it stop.
If anything, these reactions are much worse than the silence itself.
The other person finds the forced conversation uncomfortable, and it reflects on you in turn.
After all, you can clearly sense their discomfort, so they must be thinking about you!
This mindset only makes the situation worse, and sooner than later you are borderline panicking, not sure what to do.
The fact that the other person should not concern you.
In fact, they are unlikely to be thinking bad things about you, they are probably just feeling as awkward as you do!
Even if they are thinking about you – So what?
What other people think about you should not affect the way that you behave.
This fear of being judged is very real, but it is ultimately pointless – Not only are these personal thoughts unimportant, but fussing about them will not benefit you in any way.
Still, social anxiety makes this idea quite difficult to implement.
For now, simply accept these silences for what they are and don’t try to force further discussion.
These moments of quiet can be a blessing as long as you actually let them.
After all, it is much easier to keep quiet than it is to come up with new things to say.
3) Come prepared
For shy and socially anxious people, managing a conversation can be quite difficult.
In fact, it can be so difficult that many of them, of us, try and avoid talking to others altogether.
Assuming that you lack the social skills to just randomly talk to anyone about anything, the next best thing is to talk to specific people about specific things.
I don’t necessarily refer to stalking them on social networks or anything, but getting the general idea of their interests before talking to them might be beneficial for you.
In my case, I noticed that people like to talk about other people.
All I had to do to get to know a person better is to listen to their conversation.
Eavesdropping might not be for everyone, but many people wear their interests on their sleeves, so you won’t have too much trouble what they like or dislike.
If all else fail, you can always bring up a mutual acquaintance and hope for the best.
That being said, you can’t really get to know someone before talking to them, and you can’t research everyone you meet in advance.
This method is still preferable for important conversations, such as a meeting or a date, but for everyday conversations there is a much simpler solution.
4) Learn to listen
Silence can be very comfortable for shy people or people with social anxiety.
That being said, silence is not always an option, and neither is preparation.
In these cases you are forced to keep the conversation going somehow.
Yet if you are one of the people described in this article then this is a truly difficult endeavor.
Fortunately, you don’t really have to talk all that much to have a fruitful, interesting conversation with others.
The biggest secret is to learn to listen.
Here’s the thing – people love to talk about themselves and their interests, and once you open that particular faucet they will start gushing and filling in all of the blanks without actually waiting for you to continue talking.
Using this method, you will be able to talk to someone and let them actually do most of the talking, with you only asking questions or expressing your interest here and there.
And yes, you actually need to be interested in what they are saying.
Half-hearted replies and reactions will leave a sour taste and kill the other party’s enthusiasm completely.
Most people, let alone shy people, can’t fake interest all that well.
You need to actually care about what they are saying, otherwise this method will simply not work.
If you do manage to get it going then you are pretty much set.
The greatest advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t require you to be witty, interesting or funny.
In this case, being attentive is all that you need.
5) Overcome your social anxiety
Let’s face it, awkward silences, or moments in general, are pretty much unavoidable.
At times, you are going to be put in a tight spot and might not have any way to get out of it.
The fear of messing up that all people with social anxiety have is going to eventually surface in some way, shape or form.
Luckily for you, overcoming social anxiety is more than just possible: It is well within your reach.
In case you are just shy or introverted, there is very little to stop you from turning your situation around.
From personal experience, I would highly recommend checking out “The Shyness and Social Anxiety System” by Sean Cooper.
In it, you will find detailed guides and workbooks that will help you regain control over your social struggles.
Before you do that, however, here’s a quick question – How much do awkward silences bother you?
There is a healthy balance between too much and too little, you dont want to come across as an unplesant company, do you?
Be sure to leave your answers in the comment section below, I would love to hear what you have to say!
If you got any further questions then please contact me via Email and I will get back to you as soon as possible.