The Awkward Silence





That awkward gulf of emptiness between two people during a conversation…




It kills me. I’m not very good at surviving the uncomfortable moment when a conversation stalls. For as long as I can remember I have always jumped in to fill the gaping chasm of nothingness that forms when a person stops talking. I can’t stand it.

Turns out I’m not alone. The University of Groningen in the Netherlands conducted a study with English and Dutch speakers and found that when faced with 4 or more seconds of silence in a conversation most participants started to feel uncomfortable (Morrison, 2017). There are books, websites, blogs and workshops all dedicated to filling the awkward silence when communicating.

But what if the power is in the silence and not in the words?

I’m still working on letting silence into my conversations and training sessions. It’s a change in progress. But when I have been able to embrace letting silence in, the benefits have been immense. I learn more about the other person, I take the pressure off myself to fill the gap and I am able to focus more on listening and less on talking for talking’s sake. So, I keep practicing the power of the pause.

As a Commander and Controller, do you need to have all the answers all of the time? What could happen if you embraced the pause and allowed others to fill it instead? I challenge you to give it a try at your next briefing or meeting and see what happens.

Leah Bonvissuto wrote a great article “Why Silence is Golden: How to harness the power of the pause in professional communication”. You can check it out at:

REFERENCE: Morrison, L. (2017). The subtle power of uncomfortable silences. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Feb. 2019].

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