Self

How To Embrace The Deepest Part Of Conversation — The Silence Between Words

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couple sitting on a deck, comfortably quiet

Most people think of silence as something that needs to be quickly covered up otherwise it will lead to awkwardness. There is a reason we often refer to silence as “awkward silence".

But what if silence is good for conversations? After all, silence is an important part of communication. 

In fact, silence can be a very effective communication tool. When we communicate, we are expressing ourselves — verbally and non-verbally. Sometimes, silence does a better job at conveying a message than words can.

Words only express seven percent of the messages we want to convey. Nonverbal communication (expressions, gestures, tone, volume, etc.) therefore expresses 93 percent of the message.

If this is the case, then we can see how silence can contribute to a conversation, too.

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How To Be Comfortable with Silence in a Conversation

Silence has a purpose. It isn’t just a placeholder, waiting for someone to interrupt. If you are eagerly waiting for a lull so you can get the last word in, you miss the purpose of a conversation — to exchange ideas.

Instead of division, we should work toward unity. It’s no wonder that “communication” is the top problem cited by partners coming to couples counseling.

How do you cope with silence in conversations?

Try to like silence, or at least, not be bothered by it.

Silence can indicate whether the communication and the relationship are healthy or not healthy. If you know the other person doesn’t mind silence, maybe even likes it, then don’t let it bother you.

Small talk for the sake of talking is not gratifying to many people. Silence can be an indicator of two or more people being comfortable with each other.

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Why is there silence now?    

Certain locations such as a funeral home or library require silence, whereas silence on a first date may be quite awkward. Learn to Read the Room and gauge the people and energy and then try to adapt.

Your friend may just not be in the mood to talk right now, so don’t take it personally.

You don’t always have to fill the silence

If an important topic is being discussed, the silence may indicate that people are considering the points. Silence is also appropriate during a ceremony or when someone is getting lectured in front of you.

In these situations, it is important to abide by the silence or remove yourself, politely.

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Harness the power of silence

Many of us talk too much, which in turn can hurt our delivery. Silence allows us to listen better and focus on what the other person is saying, verbally and non-verbally.

Being silent can allow both of you to better understand the conflict and reach a resolution faster.

Silence can be a motivator

A tactic to get to the bottom of a discussion is to wait until the other person fills the silence. By remaining quiet long after you asked a question, someone will more than likely reply in an effort to avoid feeling uncomfortable.

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Use silence as your first defense

When facing a new challenge, disagreement or interruption, use silence as your first response. This allows you time to reflect and then formulate and deliver your response in a way that is productive and cooperative.

Recognize when silence is not healthy

Silence can be misused to express anger or punish another. Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in this type of negative experience.

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Silence brings knowledge

When you focus on being silent, your concentration will improve immeasurably. Silence, therefore, builds a new life skill while enabling you to learn new things.

You don’t learn by talking — you learn by listening.

Silence is strength

Feeling comfortable in silence can be difficult to master and it takes courage to use it as a communication tool. Most of us feel more in control when we are the speaker, but it is a very attractive quality to be a good listener.

Be patient and give yourself some time to learn. But when you do learn how to use silence effectively, look out. Your communication will become much more powerful.

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Caroline Maguire, M.Ed., ACCG, PCC founded and facilitates a comprehensive SEL training methodology on how to develop critical social, emotional, and behavioral skills. For more information, visit her website

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This article was originally published at The author's website. Reprinted with permission from the author.