The Awkward Silence Myth that Kills Opportunity

The Awkward Silence Myth that Kills Opportunity

The very fact that we call a pause in conversation an ‘awkward silence’ points to a root belief that inhibits our ability to really listen, create rich conversations and hear well.

Awkward, therefore bad, therefore needs correcting, therefore fill that space as quick as we can. Nature abhors a vacuum and so do many of us. Heaven forbid a break in conversation for reflection, pondering or inquiry!

While the other person is silent…

Say nothing whilst they maybe wrestling with their thoughts; don’t interrupt, don’t intrude in the space, don’t squash.

Let the person come forth in the silence. It’s often here that the Truth really comes out.

Take a moment of silence before responding so the person knows they have been heard.


Effective listening is more than just letting another person finish their sentence before you speak. It is being intent on listening to all of what is being and not being said – consciously focusing on the person’s contribution ‘versus’ waiting impatiently for your chance to respond. Do you treat communication as a race? The goal is to be ready to deliver your response even before you have heard the end of their sentence, and not to leave any gaps between speakers? Slowing down your responses not only enables you to be a better listener it allows you to be a less stressed dude. It takes a lot of energy and is stressful to always be on the edge of your seat guessing what the person is going to say next and mentally preparing your reply. It is quite simple to become a better listener – begin to notice when you are not! For example, as the client is speaking you notice your mind drifting to the next meeting, your next response or tonight’s shopping list. Catch yourself and bring back your attention. You cannot stop the thought rising but you can begin to notice more and take charge. It takes practice to listen well.

The benefits of not being compelled to fill the silence:

  • The pressure is off. You feel relaxed to let the other person speak. Consequently they feel more confident to also relax and let the conversation flow.  You hear it all – the said and unsaid – allowing a great amount of useful intelligence to come your way.
  • Your relationships are enhanced because people simply like to work with someone who truly listens. (Think about how you feel after experiencing a good listening to.)
  • The more you listen – the less you speak,  thus allowing others to come forth in the silence with their own solutions.
  • The quality of their thinking is consistent with the quality of your attention

The mission is to be comfortable with awkwardness and let the opportunity come forth…

Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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