How to break an awkward silence

Written by gina scott
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How to break an awkward silence
Use humour to break an awkward silence. (Christopher Robbins/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Everyone eventually encounters a moment during a meeting or get-together that has an awkward silence. First dates are a perfect set-up for this kind of communication faux pas. Usually, no one knows who should speak first. If the awkward silence is due to an argument, neither party likely wants to be the first to talk. Such forms of silence are shown to even result in lowering self-esteem and feeling rejected. With such evidence that this pause of communication may have a great impact, certain strategies are available should you encounter an awkward silence yourself.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy


  1. 1

    Attempt to crack a joke. Nothing diffuses a tense moment like injecting a dose of humour. When you feel an interaction turning cold, joke about how the waitress reminds you of a female Jerry Seinfeld or how bad you are at table manners. Choose something in the moment so your dining partner can notice and laugh at it, too. Be sure not to poke fun at your companion in any way, however, as this could worsen the silence.

  2. 2

    Change the subject you were discussing. Some kind of disagreement may have caused that moment of awkward silence between you and your companion. If you want to break the tension caused by the difference of opinion, start talking about a different topic altogether. Make this switch lightheartedly, and choose a subject that is neutral for both of you.

  3. 3

    Become a food critic. If your uncomfortable silence happens over a meal, immediately begin talking about how delicious or awful you find the food. Try to engage your partner in commenting about her dish and what she likes about it. Discuss occasions when you two have had delicious meals together and other good times you've shared.

  4. 4

    Call on a third party. Based on where you encounter your awkward silence, engage the company of someone not presently in your conversation. If you're at a party, a mutual friend would work wonders. If you're dining at a restaurant, call over the waiter and ask for his recommendations about what you and your companion could do after you finish your meal. If you're in a checkout line, turn and involve the person in line behind you. Having a third party join your conversation, even briefly, will diffuse the tension.

  5. 5

    Ask your companion what's wrong. A sure-fire way to break an uncomfortable silence with a person is to simply inquire about what's bothering him. Ask if you said something offensive or if the topic you were on is something he'd rather not discuss. Do your questioning with a genuine spirit so as not to further complicate the situation.

Tips and warnings

  • Do your best to be lighthearted when encountering awkward silences, even if you are offended.
  • Work on your general communication skills to avoid uncomfortable silences in the first place.
  • Don't over-analyse an awkward silence, especially in first date situations. Your partner may just be nervous.

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