October 17, 2011

Sitting With Silence, Can You Handle It?

I got into a discussion this weekend with some friends about "uncomfortable silences" and their meaning. I must admit, the uncomfortable silence is not something I am well acquainted with. I usually have a rebuttal to just about anything and have a hard time keeping my mouth shut. But I must say, I enjoy silence...or quiet, there is a difference. When your kids are gone and you get over that moment of celebration, and the 'now what' sets in, the silence comes; it's terrible. When they are tucked into bed and sleeping like Angels, that's quiet. I prefer quiet.
Back to the subject at hand, which in this post I will talk about the uncomfortable silence in a dating situation. So my friend, not me, my friend...seriously not me and not "my friend” had a date this weekend. She said it went great except for the moments of uncomfortable silence. I asked how the conversation was when there wasn't a silent moment and she said, "Great"! Okay. So did she consider the date a failure because they didn't talk non-stop for 3 hours? Apparently so. Do one or two moments of uncomfortable silence mean you have no chemistry? Again, apparently so. Naturally, I had to disagree with this argument.
In my opinion, the uncomfortable silence, tells just as much about a person, than what they say. This of course is not true on the telephone, long-ish pauses maybe, long periods of silence on the phone, not so good. But one-on-one, can you just sit with each other and feel okay in that moment? I think this is very telling about chemistry between two people. I guess I don't really feel squirmy in the uncomfortable silence, it doesn't bother me. Don't get me wrong I CAN find something to talk about, but I would rather give it some worth. But honestly, even what I think has worth is most often times seriously lacking, so perhaps I should just shut my trap. But really, those moments are not as long as they seem in our minds. Uncomfortable silences are really just nervous energy when it all comes down to it.
Let's take my last date for example, yes I know, such an occurrence did take place once upon a time. Dude was totally not okay with uncomfortable silences. In fact so much so, that on our third date, I heard the entire story the McDonald's franchise and creation thereof. No joke. Ten minutes in I was visibly not amused and he promised there was a point, and then kept tapping my hand to wake me from my coma. I'd rather take the 5 seconds of silence that seems like an eternity than the 20 minutes of verbal torture.
{Let me also say for the record, had our conversation been going in the direction of McDonald's, franchises, entrepreneurship, or business in general, maybe it would've been relevant. He also never ate fast food, and it's rare in my household. One minute we were talking about bike trails than bam! Huh?}
Here's where my hypothesis comes in and I'd like to know what you think. Uncomfortable silences are pretty near inevitable on dates or when meeting new people. You are just learning more about them, their likes and dislikes, it does happen. More than likely, it will happen. Are they a deal breaker in your book? I think sometimes we fill the quiet moments to help the other person feel comfortable as well. Also do parents feel more comfortable with uncomfortable silences, just because quiet is few and far between?
Maybe it's just me, and I don't read into them. It's just natural. I am more likely to read into a lecture series on fast-food franchising and why this has nothing to do with bike trails.
Let me know your feelings on the uncomfortable silence. Is it a deal breaker? Are parents more comfortable with it, or am I once again a scientific anomaly?
Then again,  this very post could be the result of an uncomfortable blogging silence from the last 5 days. Possible, very possible.


  1. I am with you, uncomfortable silences are normal. I think feeling the need to fill every second with inconsequential talk bothers me much more. I see it as a sign of the person not being confident in themselves. That could be just me. I think that when you find someone that you can comfortably sit quietly with, that's a winner. I'm not a big talker, I never have been, and most people take that as I'm unhappy, or in a bad mood, or whatever else they can come up with. It just means I am more of a people watcher, reflector, know what I'm going to say before I say it type of person.

    The uncomfortable silences can tell you a lot about a person, seeing how they handle them to me is a big indication of who they are. Again that's just me. :-)

  2. I'll admit it, I am very uncomfortable with awkward silences. Like with my in-laws, I cannot shutup. I don't know how! I just keep going and going until I look like an ass. I don't like the silence and that's probably because of MY family, you usually cant get a word in edgewise. lol

  3. Big fan of quiet here. I spend most of my time with an 8 year old that doesn't make too much racket so I'm used to quiet. Dates however, that babble on about things I'm not interested in only make good blog material. Incidentally, that's how I determine if there will be a second date: if at anytime during the first date I am wishing you would shut up, or I think you've said THE dumbest thing I've ever heard...game over.

  4. @Angel- Agree, I think it does say a lot about a person's character. Now I don't want to sit through a completely silent meal, but a few moments are normal. I also don't want there to be silence combined with undressing with eyes, or staring at me all creepy-like. I get the people thinking I'm mad too, that's why I try to smile a lot; but it might just make me look crazy or drunk, eh.

    @Crystal- Families are tricky, sometimes awkward silences in a family setting can ignite a war. Didn't think about that one.

    @Christina- I guess this means we can never date. I would say something stupid 10 minutes in and it would be over.

  5. Moments of silence are not a deal breaker for me, but how the other person handles the silence might be...do they remain calm or do they start spouting out random information? Maybe it is a mom thing, quiet can be good!

  6. Just found your blog and am glad that I did! I'm newly divorce and a single parent of two that is trying to balance motherhood, career, my coaching business ... and running marathons! Looking forward to learning how to balance it all from you!

  7. I think it depends on how comfortable you are with silence in general. I've always gotten the impression that dudes (on dates) probably get all panicky if I don't rabbit on constantly, like, you know, maybe they think I'm boring them or something. I recently dated a guy who used to go on and on and on and on and on and on about stuff that happened 20 years ago to people I've never met, just to "fill the silence." It was either stop seeing him or strangle him, and I didn't have a place to hide the body. ;)

  8. @SingleMama-Precisely. I really like the quiet moments, not the awkward ones. If someone tries too hard it makes me nervous.

    @Jamie-I'm going to check out your blog. You can do this, and btw, I can probably teach you nothing. Just sayin', but thanks, half the time I'm barely hanging in there.

    @Marjorie-I have that problem with where to hide the bodies all the time. And prison, prison scares me a little.

  9. Silence is fine, although silence early on when you are getting to know a person is probably less comfortable than silence later on.

    Unless they are giving you the silent treatment.

    And I like a good listener.

  10. @Beard-Agree, that's true. Good point.

    Silent treatment should really just be out-lawed, unless specifically in reference to McDonald's franchises.

    Also agree on the good listener, think everyone likes to be "heard".

  11. Silences become uncomfortable when you're meeting someone for the first time, as you're still trying to feel each other out- not physically, I hope. Since you are only beginning to scratch the surface of the other's personality, verbal pauses become misinterpreted as boredom or displeasure at the company.

    When in a loving relationship, for instance, silence can reveal aspects of one's being which have yet to be unfurled. Simply holding hands while looking at a beautiful sunset resonates more than a hundred spoken "I love yous"... Sorry, I'm getting carried away here :)

    When silences last too long though, that sets off an alarm for me. I get paranoid and think that something may be wrong... that my loved one may be keeping something from me.


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