Ditch The Fillers

No, not the ones for your face. I’m talking about conversation fillers. The next time you’re compelled to fill that awkward silence, just tell yourself to STFU. It is not your job to fill all the gaps in the conversation.

Those awkward moments of silence are a common occurrence during work meetings. And I find myself feeling responsible for filling that silence, especially if I’m leading the meeting, made the last statement, or have just asked a question. But I have to remind myself that IT’S OKAY for there to be silence. Sometimes you can attribute the uncomfortable silence to the meeting attendees needing time to process information, or perhaps each of them is waiting for someone else to speak up first, or let’s be honest sometimes people just aren’t paying attention. But remember that the silence is just as awkward for everyone else as it is for you.

If you stop feeling responsible for filling up all that silence, you can put that energy to better use elsewhere. In fact, the more you become known for filling the silence, the less others feel obligated to speak up in those moments. Silence is powerful and the more silence you allow, the more respect others will have for you.

Now if you have something valuable to add to the conversation then by all means speak your mind. Sometimes you will be the one filing that awkward silence, just be deliberate about what you are contributing.

If you often find yourself as the facilitator of conversations, then you can test different methods to minimize the awkward silences. Try asking open ended questions, closed ended questions, or direct questions at specific individuals if the dynamic of the group allows for “name calling”. You can also solicit help from your colleagues, particularly those that tend to be more influential, to co-facilitate meetings with you.

Whatever language you speak, silence is universally understood. The more you can become comfortable with silence, the more you’ll build your confidence. Practice staying quiet and embrace the silence.

-T

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