A conversation takes place between dinner dates Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega in the movie "Pulp Fiction" during which Mia proclaims that you know you have found someone special when you can "comfortably enjoy the silence." While it is true that silences can indicate depth in a relationship, eventually you or the person you are speaking with will want to start up the conversation again.
Summarize and Reflect
Identify the reason for the quiet moment. If your lifelong best friend just revealed that she has been secretly seeing an old flame while her husband has glued himself to the lazy boy, then the silence is a time to digest this bombshell. A comment such as "I am just thinking about what you said" may be enough in these instances to launch both of you back into the conversation. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recommends in the "Psychology Today" article "10 Tips to Talk About Anything with Anyone" restating what was said to show that you were listening and to make sure you understood.
If it feels as though you haven't finished talking about your cousin's upcoming nuptials, and the break in conversation was just a lull, then you might consider asking a question to delve deeper into the original discussion. Whitbourne advises observing nonverbal behavior, such as body posture and eye contact, to decide whether the other person is comfortable with the topic at hand or would rather "shift gears." If your conversation partner starts leaning away or finger-tapping when you mention the honeymoon, it might be best to ground the plane on that topic.
Introduce New Topics
Perhaps your earlier conversation naturally ran its course and it is time for something fresh. In these cases, having an arsenal of ideas at your fingertips will make thinking of something to say easier. Study the news and learn what you can about the other person in advance, as both types of preparation can provide you with potential topics for discussion. Offering a genuine compliment, such as commenting on a friend's fabulous scarf or feisty new hairstyle, can also naturally resume the chat after a moment of silence.
Help one another solve a problem and the conversation will never lag, says etiquette expert and life coach Marie Dubuque in the video segment "How to Restart a Conversation After an Awkward Silence; Lull," available via YouTube. Ask your friend for advice about your work colleague who keeps stealing your best ideas and claiming them as her own, or inquire about her child who was recently suspended from school. A discussion about a problem will last much longer as you go back and forth with ideas about potential solutions. As Dubuque notes, "People love to feel like they are helping other people."
If you want to avoid breaks in the conversation, find topics of mutual interest. When both parties are engaged and excited about the discussion, quiet moments are less likely to occur. At the same time, know when silence is appropriate. Sometimes people don't want to talk, such as when riding on a bus or an airplane. If the other person keeps shutting down the conversation, it might be best to keep quiet yourself.