Awkward Silences Aren’t Really That Awkward: 9 Things You Should Do Besides Start Talking To Someone

November 14, 2012  |  

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I don’t know about you, but I find nothing awkward about silences when I’m in the presence of another human being. In fact, I enjoy those moments. Small talk tends to annoy me, particularly when it never goes beyond those random default topics like the weather — and particularly when it’s a stranger I have no interest in knowing further. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t see things that way, and when the conversation between them and another person runs dry, they feel the need to start rambling just to fill the empty airspace. Sigh.

Since these people don’t seem to know what to do with themselves during these so-called awkward silences, allow me to put forth a few suggestions.

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Check Your Phone

Look, we’re a digital culture now. No one goes more than 5-10 minutes without checking their phone for a text message, missed call, or email. Pull out your phone! You can do anything on the phone these days, check the weather, play Angry Birds, take a few Instagram pics, do something! Trust me, no one will mind and there will be nothing awkward about it.

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Read a Book

This may not work when in the presence of people you know, but if you’re in an airport, train station, or car shop, just pull out a book. Matter of fact, you should always have one on deck as a buffer if you’re not into small talk period. Reading, in most people’s minds, is a universal sign that you are not to be bothered and if you don’t know how to carry on an extended conversation don’t even set yourself up for failure going out without something in your hands. Newspaper, magazine, novel — whatever your item of choice, find it and get to reading.

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Bust out the Laptop

If you just don’t know what to do with yourself as you stress over the end or lack of a conversation, pull out the laptop and get to work. There are better ways to kill time than relying on small talk. Instead of feeling awkward that no one is talking — and bothering someone else — just power up windows, look over a word document or edit an Excel sreadsheet, or even browse the world wide web for random internet foolywang. By time you come across a crazy YouTube video or two, you won’t even remember no one is talking.

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Go to the Bathroom

Nothing affords you a smoother exit from what you may think is an awkward silence than simply excusing yourself to go to the bathroom. Who can argue with that? Nobody has to know you don’t really need to go potty or whatever you call it, just excuse yourself, wash your hands, fix your clothes in the mirror, and come back and sit down — without saying a word. Now if when you say I have to go the bathroom, the person around you says, “me too!” and follows you into the commode, you’re on your own.

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Eat

It’s rude to talk while you eat right? Fill that gap in the conversation with some food. You can either may a beeline for a refreshment stand or a little cafe, or simply pull a snack out of your bag. Rather than sitting in the silence you think is awkward, eating at least means you are physically doing something, and snacking is something that is expected to be done silently. Don’t stress it.

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Listen to music

If you can’t stand to sit there while nothing is going on, simply pop on those Beats and listen to your favorite tune. Its not that difficult. Always keep a pair of headphones handy because they’re a necessary buffer against strangers and such silences.

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Make a To-Do List

Part of the reason I appreciate these so-called awkward silences is that they give me time to figure out what the heck I’m doing. I always keep a mental to-do list going in my head and I hate for my internal preparation to be interrupted by a chatty Cathy. If you don’t know what to do with yourself when a conversation subsides, start running over different things in your head, be it a grocery list, what you’re going to cook for dinner, or what you have to take care of when you get to the office. Sure the person you’re with doesn’t know about your internal dialogue, but you do. Enjoy the silence and take the time to organize your schedule.

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Take a Nap

I’m tempted to say go to sleep h*e but that would be rude. Still, if you can’t think of anything else to do while someone else enjoys the silence, take your butt to sleep. You don’t have to take a full-blown nap, but please close your eyes, rest your eyelids, and most importantly close your moth. Keep in mind, a 15-minute cat nap does a body good.

 

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Reflect

And if sleeping fails, reflect on your life and why you think silence is awkward and you need to talk to so much. JK. But seriously. Besides being able to create a mental to-do list, the other thing I value about silence is being able to just reflect on either my day, my weekend, my life, anything. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. Don’t ruin it for them.

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  • This is all terrible advice!!!

  • cc

    P.S. I think I have read multiple times on this site how rude it is to use your phone at dinner or other such situations. Then the first thing you tell everyone to do is pick up their phone! Bad advice! If you are at a dinner table stuck next to someone you really don’t want to talk to…Well, bad things happen to good people! Deal with it. The true social test is being able to have a conversation with anyone. Take it as a challenge and carry on the conversation as best you can. That doesn’t mean you have to have multiple subsequent conversations with them. It just means that at the end of the meeting they will have a good impression of you, and wont’ tell someone,”Yeah, she was so rude. She just kept checking her phone the entire night…and in between dinner and dessert she pulled out Jane Eyre!” Smh

    Bad Article!

  • cc

    This is crap advice for people who have trouble socializing and making friends. “Bury your head in something and you will be fine.” That’s all good for the airport and public places where you don’t want to talk to random people, but I feel like someone(an introvert) would read this article and then use these tips in situations where you are required to make small talk (I.E. social gatherings, mixers, networking events.) You really have to put this article into the context of just “at the airport.” Otherwise, you are going to look like the saddest little wallflower anyone has ever seen.

  • bebe

    Silence does not bother me, but this article did.

  • MIYO K.

    Silence is only awkward for those who have extroverted personalities.

  • Cleo

    I’m always listening to music lol, nothing worse than silence