Awkward silence

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An awkward silence is an uncomfortable pause in a conversation. The unpleasant nature of such silences is associated with feelings of anxiety as the participants feel pressure to speak but are unsure what to say next. When Europeans communicate with Japanese, a period of meaningful silence is sometimes misinterpreted as an awkward silence.


Awkward silences may result from a faltering conversation in which the participants have completed what they wanted to say. To avoid such a conclusion, it has been recommended that the participants actively close the conversation by summarising what was said and thanking the others for their contributions.

When prolonged conversation is expected, people may be put at ease and conversation facilitated by contriving topics. In a social setting where people are meeting for the first time, the organiser of the gathering may propose an icebreaker or conversation opener such as a round of introductions. Conversation pieces, such as novel trinkets or artworks, may be used to stimulate continued conversation. In an online setting or virtual reality, an automated agent may be used to monitor and stimulate flagging conversation by suggesting topics.

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