An ex-victim of awkward silence has created a post that teaches people like us to focus on things during a conversation that actually help to make us more comfortable. David Cain’s post wasn’t created for interviewing, but it should be used for one. Here are a couple of problems he identified with shyness and how to avoid awkward silence:
“Being shy just kills self-esteem. People begin to treat you like you have nothing to say.”
“To make things worse, the consistent lack of practice prevents you from getting any better at conversing.”
People fall back on 3 horrible topics when they have nothing to say: weather, news, and asking about people’s jobs.*
Make conversation-watching a habit. It can give you a short go-to list of ways to open and close conversations.*
“Practice speaking up. And practice always means allowing yourself do something badly until you can do it not so badly.“
Replace your fallback topics with one question: Do you have any cats/ dogs/ upcoming vacations/ new cars/ creative hobbies outside of work?*
Regardless of their response, you now have options: What kind of cat? Why don’t you like dogs? Have you always wanted to vacation there? Is there another car model that you had your eye on? What does stamp collecting/ archery/ video games do for you?
Go through the list above or your own one at a time. If they say no (and nothing else), just move on to the next one. It’s easier to end conversations abruptly, but with a smile, once you find common ground.
“People are so grateful to get a chance to gush about their pet topics. They’ll remember the conversation, and they’ll certainly remember you. And that’s because you gave them a tremendous gift: you gave them a chance to be themselves with you. You rescued them from the slow agony of a dead-end work or weather conversation, and you let them feel good about being who they are. Don’t underestimate how profound an effect this has on a person. You can be the best part of a party for a lot of people.”
“Uncomfortable people tend to make others uncomfortable, and open people tend to make others open.”