The Art Of Conversation: Avoid Awkward Silence

Daisy Cousens

I love conversation. I’m extremely good at it. Whether it’s about politics, fashion, celebrities, religion, film, theatre, even the weather, I’ve got something to say. Years of practising the art of conversation have turned me into (if I do say so myself) a sensational silver-tongue. It’s a gift and a curse. This is, by and large, owing to a personality that is naturally uninhibited. I am not generally worried about being thrown into the social stratosphere, and can talk my way out of pretty much everything.

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However, not everybody has the blind (and often idiotic) drive to do this. Most people are more reserved than I am, and as such may run into trouble when they reach a speed bump in a conversation. These speed bumps, in the form of awkward silences, static laughter, and avoiding each other’s eyes, can arise at any time. They usually form at the most inconvenient moments; job interviews, first dates, the inaugural meeting with your significant other’s parents, etc.

If left unchecked, allowing awkward moments to flourish becomes a habit that is difficult to break. Never underestimate the value of a flowing conversation; it puts people at ease around you and helps create a great first impression. If you are not a naturally outgoing or confident person, the art of conversation can be terrifyingly difficult and seemingly impossible to master. However, there are certain ways to fan the flames of conversation in any situation; it’s all about paying attention. Here are three key tricks to smooth over those bumps in the road from a self-confessed super-conversationalist:

1. Ask questions

This may seem banal, but it is the key to all conversation. If you have run out of things to talk about, or want to start a dialogue with someone, simply ask them questions about, well, themselves. After all, this is the topic that people are most comfortable with because they are most familiar with it. Once you’ve got them talking, you will see them relax, and the rest of the conversation will begin to flow naturally. Showing a lot of genuine interest always helps as well.

2. Avoid contentious topics

I know it’s tempting to voice your opinion on the latest political debate, or what’s going on with the stock market, or what’s happening in the Middle East, but my advice is to keep your mouth shut – especially if you don’t know your conversation buddies very well. Unless you’re all of exactly the same opinion (which is rare), someone’s gears are going to get a grinding. This, understandably, leads to tension, which can be very difficult to diffuse depending on the flexibility of the people involved. Unless you are besties with everyone in the group, or you’re in an arena where this kind of debate is encouraged, steer clear. When in doubt, restrict your remarks to the weather.

3. Laugh a lot

It doesn’t matter if your conversation partner has made a joke that’s lamer than the fact that Zayn left One Direction, if you want to keep the chatter going laugh at it. Laugh loudly. It could be the least funny joke on the planet, but if you make them feel like they’re amusing you, they will relax. You’ll give them confidence and encourage them to open up more. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll start making some genuine funnies when they feel the pressure’s off.

All in all, the art of good conversation isn’t difficult if you practise it. It’s about trusting your own appeal; exuding quiet confidence (even if you’re faking it) is a great way to put people at ease. Remember those three tricks and awkward blurps in your daily chatter will be a thing of the past!

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