How to Avoid Awkward Silences Between Friends

Your surroundings offer plenty of small conversation topics.
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Not all silences between friends are awkward. After all, you can't expect to fill each and every silence when your friendship stretches on for years. Sometimes it's fine to enjoy the quietude with a friend, while you reflect on your own thoughts or take in your surroundings. But when it comes to those painfully awkward silences -- when the two of you are just staring at each other, twiddling your thumbs -- you can use several strategies to keep the chatter flowing.

1 Reflective Listening

Empathic reflecting skills allow you to keep a conversation flowing without actually doing too much of the talking. Simply restate or rephrase something you heard your friend say, University of Massachusetts Amherst psychology professor Susan Krauss Whitbourne suggests on "Psychology Today" online. This will spur your friend to elaborate on the subject. For example, during the awkward silence say, "You said you were starting college in the fall?" This gives her an opportunity to elaborate on where she will be attending school or what classes she will take. Listen carefully, and ask more questions if you have them.

2 Know Current Events

If you keep up with current events, you will have plenty of subjects to bring up during awkward silences, Maud Purcell, licensed clinical social worker, asserts on PsychCentral. Since you're talking to your friends, you should already have a fairly good idea of what subjects to keep track of. For example, if you're both comic book fans, you can mention the latest happenings in the adventures of Batman. If you're both sports fan, bring up the latest victories and losses of your favorite teams.

3 Use Your Surroundings

Use observational comments about something you are both currently experiencing, recommends Gretchen Rubin, award-winning author of "The Happiness Project," on PsychCentral. For example, if you're in your friend's bedroom, use posters as a way to jump back into a conversation. You could say, "Neat poster. I've never heard of the band Weezer." From there, use your reflective listening skills to learn more and keep the conversation in motion. If you're in a park, comment about the people around you or even the weather. Just remember to keep things positive or funny, writes Rubin.

4 Use Humor

When you're anxious because you're too focused on the silence, you make it harder for yourself to think. However, a little humor can help you relax while thinking outside of the box. Don't be afraid to make a silly observation or ask a silly question. When in doubt, a little self-deprecating humor allows you to humbly bring up a subject and make your friend laugh at the same time, suggests Purcell. For example, you can say, "I'm always pretty bad with awkward silences. Yesterday, I sat in silence with my dad for 10 minutes before I finally decided to just talk about the weather."

Mitch Reid has been a writer since 2006. He holds a fine arts degree in creative writing, but has a persistent interest in social psychology. He loves train travel, writing fiction, and leaping out of planes. His written work has appeared on sites such as and GlobalPost, and he has served as an editor for ebook publisher Crescent Moon Press, as well as academic literary journals.