The truth is, silence plays a crucial role in just about every encounter we make with other humans.
For starters, it can move the conversation along.
First dates, business meetings and intense idea proposals – these are all instances in which silence can be almost painful.
Why? Because it leaves room for thought. It forces one party to say something that moves the conversation along.
This is only as awkward as you make it. It’s not the worst thing in the world to leave a few seconds of silence in a conversation in order to see what the other person has to say.
According to research, four seconds is all it takes to build the tension you want.
Silence can also make it clear that you disagree or are feeling hostile towards the speaker.
In this case, the silence can be metaphorical. Think of the way politicians behave when asked a question they don’t want to answer. Do they stop talking entirely?
No – rather, they remain silent on the issue that was raised and talk about something else.
Silence in this case can also refer to a lack of action. Don’t agree with a particular ideology or movement?
Another way in which you can speak loud and clear with your silence is in expressing respect or awe.
From seeing your partner in a new outfit to seeing a mind blowing movie ending for the first time, there are many scenarios in which you can express just how blown away you are without saying a word.
In many cases, our words can simply not express the power of these moments – it’s much better to just let the air hang.
Silence can also be an incredibly effective way of communicating sympathy. What could you possibly say to someone who just lost their wife and child in a car accident?
There are a million things to say that could make them feel worse – sitting with them in silence and communicating sympathy through your body language just might be a better move.
To wrap things up, you can’t be a good conversationalist without first acknowledging and learning to harness the power of silence. Arriving at the place where you can do so will make you so much more of an empathetic, relatable and meaningful communicator.