The Awkward Silence

Published: Feb 18, 2024
Edited by: Marce Ferreira

Couple on couch not talking to each other

The phenomenon of Awkward Silence is well-known around the world, but it depends very much on the culture, the language, and the context in which silence in a conversation appears if silence is actually awkward or not.

Awkward Silence is defined as a pause in a conversation (or presentation) that’s felt as uncomfortable, weird, and unpleasant. In fact, one has the feeling that something has to be said next by oneself or by the other(s), but nothing happens, nothing is said, and nobody really knows what to say.

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Sometimes it happens because someone has said something strange or not appropriate, or because of the participants who don’t know each other or each other’s interests, or in the case of a presentation or lecture someone who seems stuck in continuing their topic.

It can also happen in a conversation between two persons, usually strangers, in which one asks a question and the other takes too long to answer. If this happens just one time or so it’s not necessarily perceived as awkward, but if the conversation partner continues doing that it quickly becomes so.

To get rid of the Awkward Silence, often someone will just start a new topic, usually arbitrary, like talking about the weather or the traffic, or about whatever comes up. This may not be a meaningful continuation, even feeling awkward by itself, but at least the Awkward Silence moment is over.

It’s generally thought that the Awkward Silence only happens when people don’t know each other well. Those who are intimate with each other usually don’t mind the silence that falls between them, that is, they don’t feel uncomfortable or pressure to continue conversation.

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