Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Those Awkward Silences

When you are planning to have others over for a meal, there’s a lot to think about--cleaning, menu, shopping, preparation, likes, allergies, special diets. One of the less thought about things—at least it was for me—is “Will my guests be able to comfortably visit with each other?”

I’ve had meals where the conversation just flows and flows and I don’t need to do anything more than listen and serve. And then I’ve had meals where there’s a lot of l-o-n-g pauses in conversation. Silence… I’m not very good at getting conversation going on my own in a situation like that. Sometimes it’s that people don’t know each other well, can’t hear, or are just uncomfortable. I've heard teenagers fill that silence with an announcement, “Awkward silence!” Everyone would laugh and then move on to whatever it is that teenagers are talking about today. That’s probably not a recommended technique with adults.

This silent situation occurs more often when my husband isn’t home. In our marriage, he’s the one who can think of things to say and questions to ask, but if he’s traveling and I want to have guests, I need help.  Our offspring tend to be more like me when Dad's not around but unknown guests are. Though we’d like to visit with others, we can get shy. But this problem is solveable.

One way I’ve learned to solve this is to invite a “talker” along with the others. There are all kinds of talkers. Some dominate the conversation. Some have interesting tidbits of information. Some tell jokes and funny stories. Some ask questions. Unless you know all your guests have laryngitis, you probably don’t want to solve the silence problem with a dominator! But someone who is interesting and upbeat can really set the tone.

I have a couple friends who are never without worthwhile things to say. They might tell you a funny experience, ask someone a question that brings out a story we've never heard, or share what they are learning in the Bible reading. I enjoy being with them, so adding them to my mix of guests is always fun for me as well as a help avoiding those awkward silences.

If you've been reading this blog for very long you know I really like conversation starting questions. These can be done formally or informally. If you have a set of cards you can memorize a question or two to use when no one is talking. Or you can have a bunch in a basket and tell everyone to pass them around choose one and ask the question. They don't have to answer unless they want, but others can. Or they can choose someone specific to answer their question.

What do you do to fill the awkward silences with guests?

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Becky, mother of 6 ages 5 to 14 says they can have family meals because:
We don't over book. 
All our activities are during the day or church related. I would love to say this is because we value family so highly, but more honestly, it's because I can't function if I'm running all the time. I don't like when life is that busy. 

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