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In the previous conversation skills article, we’d talked about some ways to have a better conversation. In this article, we’ll delve in depth into what for some is one of the most uncomfortable parts of a conversation: silence.
Do you often feel the need to say something when there’s a silence? Do you feel awkward being next to a person while not saying anything? Here are some reasons why silence can not only be comfortable, but essential to the conversation!
The Advantages of Silence
Being natural – First, if you’re talking when there’s really nothing to say, then it’ll come across as forced and fake. Why wouldn’t it be? It is forced and fake! The other person might start wondering what your “hidden” motives you may have for talking to them. It’ll set things off on the wrong foot, and you might start to forget why you are talking to this person in the first place or what you’re rambling about.
Giving yourself a chance to think – With all the stuff that the other person has said, it’s often not that easy to absorb and understand everything they’ve just divulged. Why not take a second to think over what that person has just spent their precious time telling you? That way, you get a better understanding of the information you’re seeking, and you can ask more interesting questions to get more relevant information!
Giving the other person a chance to think – Just as you need a chance to process all that information the other person has said, he/she also needs time to think about what you’ve said! After all, what’s the point of saying stuff if the other person isn’t getting it?
Better conversations – By giving everyone a chance to think and absorb all the information floating around, everyone will have a better understanding of the topic and take away more from the conversation. Not bad for saying less right?
When To Use Silence
At the end of the other person’s sentence – This is one of the most essential points to stop and give yourself a chance to absorb what has just been said. Give it at least 5 seconds – 1 minute. Oftentimes, you’ll find that the other person is just stopping to catch their breath and organize their thoughts. By immediately pounding them with your response, you might actually be interrupting their train of thought, which is disrespectful to the person talking (and thus discourages them from telling you more).
While this sounds simple, it’s actually one of the hardest things to do! A lot of times, some “great” response will pop into your head and you’ll be tempted to “get it out” before you forget! However, that implies that “great” response of yours is somehow of greater value than what the other person is saying. When you interrupt someone or jump right in before they’ve finished, you are essentially indicating that the other person’s thoughts are not that important! What can do more to discourage him/her from talking?
Stop from time to time when you’re talking – By the same token, it’s also respectful to give the other person to take in what you’ve said and give them a chance to respond! If you keep talking for 30 minutes straight, it’s probably hard for the other person to keep up with what you’ve said. Besides, how do you know if they understood what you’ve tried to convey? If they didn’t get something in minute 2, and minutes 3-30 depended on minute 2′s info, then nothing you’ve said in the last 28 would have made any sense to them!
If you just keep talking and talking and don’t care whether the other person understood you, then you are essentially implying that what you’re saying isn’t that important! After all, if it was important, you’d want to the other person to understand fully right? In that case, wouldn’t you check up once a while to verify that they got it?
If you think what you’re saying is not important, then why should anyone else think it is? And if they think what you’re saying isn’t important, then they’d probably not want to listen to you. And since they’re not getting a chance to talk… well, why would they stick around to have a conversation?
The Power Of Silence
Not only is silence not awkward, it is absolutely essential to two people understanding each other! With a greater level of understanding comes more efficient conversation, a larger amount of information conveyed with fewer words. A feeling of deep understanding can then develop between them, leading to a strong foundation for a relationship and future conversations!
Besides, isn’t it nice to say nothing when you have nothing to say?
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