It’s a common scenario: you’re talking to someone you like, and the conversation stalls. You don’t know where to take it, how to keep it going, and the awkward silence is killing you.
However, the biggest problem may not be the awkward silence itself, but the fact that being unable to keep a conversation going with someone you like can cause you to miss the opportunity to take the relationship to the next level.
Certainly, not everyone is born a naturally great talker, but everyone can improve. The first step to becoming a better chatter is to understand the psychology behind the awkward silences in the middle of conversations.
By understanding the root causes of your ‘blank mind syndrome,’ you can better identify ways to overcome it and successfully keep a conversation going with someone you like.
Why People Run Out of Things to Say
If you’ve ever found your mind going blank during a conversation, you know how frustrating it can be to struggle for something to say. The more you try to think of something, the less you’re able to come up with. You want to keep talking to the person, but you’re not sure how or what to say.
Contrary to what you may believe, your lack of communication skills is not due to an inability to think quickly or being born awkward. Rather, we often run out of things to say due to a cognitive bias called the spotlight effect.
This is a psychological phenomenon in which we overestimate the amount of attention we are receiving from others in social situations.
Overcoming Awkward Silences on Phone Conversations
1. Don’t Be Nervous.
I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s important to resist letting your nervousness take over the conversation, especially if you’re talking to someone you really like. Being nervous won’t help you have a great conversation.
One way to overcome nervousness is to remind yourself that the person you’re talking to is just like you. They’re not an employer who is interviewing you, so there’s no need to pressure yourself to say all the right things at the right time.
2. Focus Your Attention Outwards.
Instead of focusing inward on your anxiety, try focusing your attention outward. This can help you realize how little the other person is actually paying attention to you.
3. Remind Yourself That No One Is Judging You.
This mindset can greatly affect how you communicate. When you constantly believe that the person you’re talking to is judging every word you say, you may hold back on expressing what you truly want to say out of fear of being judged.
4. Don’t Overthink and Just Say What You Want to Say.
Hesitation is often the biggest barrier to what could be a great conversation. When we hesitate to express ourselves, we allow our overthinking brains to take control. As long as what you’re about to say won’t hurt anyone’s feelings, try to stop overthinking and just say it. You never know, it might lead to an amazing discussion.
How to Keep a Phone Conversation Going With Someone You Like
Fortunately, becoming a better chatter is achievable with a little planning, practice, and a mindset shift. Here are some tips to help you avoid awkward downtimes during a phone conversation with someone you like:
1. Avoid Small Talk.
It goes without saying that everyone hates shallow small talk. Don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking “What do you do?” and “What have you been up to this week?” That’s usually how you begin a conversation in the first place.
However, if your conversation consists of the same questions over and over again, you definitely need to step up your game if you want the other person to keep talking to you.
One way to initiate deeper conversations is to reveal something slightly personal about yourself. It can be anything from embarrassing childhood experiences to your personal, unpopular opinions.
By revealing something about yourself, you open the door to an intimate conversation that may lead the other person to share something personal about themselves as well. As you start to get to know each other on a deeper level, it’s easy for everything to fall into place.
2. Ask Open-Ended Questions.
One way to keep a conversation going is to encourage the other person to talk. Open-ended questions allow them to freely express their thoughts, feelings, and interests, leading to a more extended conversation.
For example, instead of asking “Do you like your job?”, try asking “What do you like most about your job?” Asking the former only yields a yes or no response, while the latter prompts the other person to delve deeper into their feelings and thoughts on the topic.
However, this doesn’t mean you should never ask closed-ended questions. At times, they’re necessary to elicit specific information. The key is to strike a balance between the two types of questions.
For instance, after asking a closed-ended question like “Where are you from?”, you can follow up with an open-ended one like “What was it like growing up in your hometown?”
3. Test Out Different Topics Until You Find One She Likes.
If you ask charismatic people what keeps a conversation going, their answer will likely be the same – sparks. Sparks are certain topics, ideas, or questions that trigger dopamine, getting the person excited.
When talking face-to-face, the primary indicator of spark is an eyebrow raise. But over the phone, you can tell when someone is excited by a sudden, high pitch in their voice.
You can figure out which topics interest the person you’re talking to by asking questions like:
- “Do you have any big vacation plans coming up?”
- “Are you working on any personal passion projects at the moment?”
Once you’ve found the sparks, the subject that excites the person you’re talking to, you don’t have to stick with it. However, it should serve as a reference for future conversations to help you choose topics that will keep the conversation flowing.
4. Prepare a List With Topic Ideas to Talk About.
If you spend 99% of your free time watching Game of Thrones, you won’t have much to say about any other topic. Sure, you might have a lot to say about GoT, but you can’t talk about it all week long.
This leaves you at a disadvantage during conversations outside of the HBO series. What you want to aim for is a balance when it comes to diversifying your interests.
You should have at least ten interests off the top of your head that you can effortlessly talk about. It can be anything – jazz music, history, podcasting, working out, and more. You don’t have to be an expert in every topic, that’s impossible.
Just make sure you have a well-rounded set of interests you know about. Having a wide range of interests you can talk about makes it easy for you to relate not only to the person you’re talking to but to a variety of people as well. This is also the secret sauce that makes people seem “interesting” and “knowledgeable”.
5. Practice the Spokes Method.
The Spokes Method involves thinking “around” the current topic to come up with something to say. This approach works when the person you’re talking to brings up a topic that you have little or no knowledge about.
For instance, your partner brings up a mountain biking-related topic, something you’re clueless about. You can’t just stonewall them and say, “I don’t want to talk about mountain biking.” Instead, use the Spokes Method to “think around the topic” and mention other things related to mountain biking, such as hiking, trails, and good mountain bikes.
You can ask questions like:
- “What’s the most challenging trail you’ve ever been on?”
- “How did you get into mountain biking?”
- “What’s the most fun mountain biking experience you’ve had?”
The key to participating in a conversation where you don’t know much about the topic they’re talking about is to stop attempting to carry the conversation. You don’t always have to take the lead, and it’s something to keep in mind.