Comfort with conversational silence

It’s tempting to fill in the natural silences that emerge in a conversation. The reason is that you don’t know the reason for the silence. Specifically, you don’t know whether it’s because the other person isn’t interested in the conversation, or is simply reflecting on what has been said to guide the rest of the conversation in a more informed way.

Since you don’t know which is the case, it’s tempting to play it safe and fill in the silence with the hope of reigniting interest in the conversation.

However, more often than not, it isn’t that your partner isn’t interested in the conversation, but that they were simply reflecting in order to provide a more informed reply. Since we can speak faster than we can think, we often need to allow time for our thoughts to catch up on and internalize what was said before responding.

So, most of the time, the right response to a natural silence is no response. The right response is to simply be comfortable with the silence by acknowleding that it’s a necessary part of enhancing the future quality of the conversation.

Also published on Medium.