Things to Talk About During Awkward Silences

Talking about music can help you feel more at ease.
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When you're trying to talk to someone, unintentional breaks in the conversation can feel quite uncomfortable. Awkward silences need only be brief to bring on unsettling feelings, because they disrupt the natural flow of conversation. When a conversation flows, it makes everyone feel included and validated. Silences usually occur when one person talks in a way that doesn't advance the topic at hand. Careful listening and questioning are good routes to finding topics that you are both able to talk about.

1 Ask Open-Ended Questions

When communication breaks down, asking questions can encourage the other person to talk and shows that you are interested in what he has to say. Keep the questions open-ended, so that they require a more elaborate answer than just "yes" or "no." Good conversation-starters might be, "Where did you last go on vacation?" or "Where do you like to hang out?" Listen carefully to his responses so that you can pick out similar experiences that you have had to continue the conversation.

2 Discuss Common Experiences

Familiar topics can evaporate moments of social awkwardness. Bring up experiences that you have in common. If you know the same friends, you could discuss the last time you saw them. If you live in the same neighborhood, talk about the local area. If you go, or went to, the same school, mention some of your teachers. If the problem occurs with a stranger, think about how and where you met each other, and what you could say about that experience.

3 Find Shared Interests

People find social situations less awkward when shared interests are apparent, research from John Jay College, published in "Group Processes and Intergroup Relations," revealed. Consider what topics might interest the person you are talking to, based on her age, gender and background. Ask what her favorite television program is or whether she watches a specific show. Ask what she enjoys doing in her spare time, what her favorite sport is or if she has any pets. Find things that you are both passionate about -- and can discuss enthusiastically.

4 Mention Music

Talking about music is a good way to find common ground and get conversation flowing. When strangers were given the task of getting to know each other, music was the most common topic of conversation, an experiment involving students at the University of Texas revealed. The 2006 study, published in "Psychological Science," showed that students chatted about music as a way of expressing their personalities. Ask which bands the other person likes or if he has been to any concerts recently.

Beth Burgess is a health and happiness expert. Burgess works as a therapist, specializing in addiction, anxiety, stress and mental well-being. Author of "The Recovery Formula" and "The Happy Addict," she writes articles to help others achieve happy lives and healthy relationships.