Defeat Awkward Silences
This might be one of the biggest pain points because these are things we experience everyday in our everyday conversations. Feeding awkward silences. Okay. First, what is an awkward silence? I'd rather eat dog food than experience this. I hate them. People tend to hate them. People don't understand them. It just makes you feel, it doesn't give you a good felling when you're in a conversation. So, what is it exactly? What actually is it? Well, the worst part about it, before I get to that, is that no matter how or why it keeps happening, awkward silence degrades your confidence. This doesn't make you feel good about it. It makes it feel like a mini-failure. And number two, it signals to others, whether it was your fault or not, that you can't handle yourself socially. On a cumulative basis, it goes from awkward to discomfort, and then just plain avoidance. Because that's just easier. Easier than dealing with this silence. So, let me just not engage with that person. How does it happen? ...
So, now we're gonna talk about the origins. Just what happens in conversation. Someone dropped the ball. Might have been you. Might have been the other person, but the conversation was in someone's hands, and instead of throwing the ball back, they dropped it. Just by saying something like, "Interesting." "Oh, I see." "Hmm." It's a popular one, "Hmm." (laughing) "I see." Someone dropped the ball. They just acknowledged you, and they didn't do anything with it. Why does it happen? Yeah, of course it happens because our minds do blank. We have nothing to say about the current topic, nor can we think of another topic. It can be tough sometimes. That is why I want to talk about free association. In other words, just blurting out words without filter. So, the reason I want to talk about this is, it is the perfect analogy for the structure of conversation. When you think about conversation, someone says something, topic A. What are you gonna say? You're gonna say something on topic A, or you're gonna say something that's related to topic A. That's all it is. That's all it is, and that's why free association works. Because, you're just thinking about things that this topic makes you think of. And it can be anything. Concepts. Nouns. People. Memory. Places. Emotions. Songs. What have you. It's just much easier to disassociate yourself from the conversation and think in terms of free concepts. So, if someone says, "I like cats, do you?" It might be hard to think of something to say to that, if you don't like cats. If you have no interest in cats. But now you strip away the context. You strip away the environment, and you just say, "Cats." Well, what does cats make you think of?
Yes, that's true.
Cat lady, insane cat, yeah. Cat lady, kittens, puppies, litter -
Cat videos on YouTube.
Grumpy Cat. Catwoman. Yeah, see so, now it's so much easier to just blurt out topics and think these are things that are related to the sentence, right? But it's so much easier to think about, when you just think about the word and free associate. May or may not be the last exercise, so late guy?
Alright. (laughing) Alright, thanks for being a good sport.
Alright, what we're gonna do here is, we're gonna ... Do you know anything about NASCAR?
But you don't know anything else about it right?
Okay, so, you actually might not know what to say about it. But let's think about what you can say with NASCAR as a concept, as just the word. So, can you please name me, just blurt out five things NASCAR makes you think of?
Very colorful cars. Very fast cars (laughing).
Okay, they're always strapped in, and can be dangerous. And, they're athletes.
It's a team sport.
Okay, good. Alright, now, ask me.
Okay, NASCAR. I know nothing about NASCAR, but if I was to free associate NASCAR, let's see, Wonder Bread, Will Ferrell, NASCAR 500, tires, gas, fuel. Yeah, so how many is that? So, you see how that's much easier -
And a much more accessible way. I think you were actually thinking too much about it.
And in conversation, that can gum us up.
Why don't you try this on carpenter.
Asking you? Or me?
Okay, asking you.
Okay, wood, dust, allergies, building a house, Jesus of Nazareth.
Nails, hammer, my fence, white picket fence.
Mahogany tables that his dad built.
Yeah, Will Ferrell, again.
More Will Ferrell. (laughing)
That's right. Okay, this is great. So, now let's do it for mahogany. Go.
Dark brown, solid, well designs, floors, chairs, fancy, rich, nice houses.
Okay, let's do it with fancy houses.
Do fancy houses now?
Real estate, investments, nothing I can afford, they're all in Palo Alto.
No filter, let's get three more.
Okay, really large estate, lots of green lawns, big walls and fences.
Okay, mowing lawns.
Allergies (laughing) Runny noses, why do I have to do it Mom and Dad? Straw, grass, let's see, Sunday morning, let's see, mowing lawns. Make ten bucks an hour.
Let's go with allergies.
Allergies, runny noses, (laughing)
Itchy eyes, walked into that one.
Claritin, sneezing, I can't think.
Pharmacy. Drugs, pills, tablets, side effects.
It's a very cold and very clean.
You feel like you're getting better at this, right?
Getting better, yeah.
Yeah, no, you are.
I can see where this game is going, yeah.
So, I mean, from a bird's eye view, that is a conversation, right? You start on one topic, you shift slightly to the other one, you shift slightly to the other one. And if I, I'm not gonna do this, but, I could white board this out, and it would just be these conversation clusters leading to this other cluster leading to this other cluster. So, that's kind of the value of free association. Where you can just think of these other topics, these related topics. It takes some practice. Definitely. To not overthink, and to blurt out these concepts. But, you can think of these topics that may or may not be related. But that doesn't matter because that gives the conversation a direction, structure, some sort of flow.
Wanna do one more?
Let's do it, okay. Water bottle.
Water bottle. The Earth, saving the planet
Better than styrofoam cups.
Hydration, sometimes there's these materials inside that-
BPA, that's what it's called. I lose it all the time.
Sometimes I fill it with coffee.
And sometimes I have butter in there.
Sorry, go ahead.
Oh no, perfect.
Keep on going?
No, I was gonna go with something else, but that's actually perfect. So, you did a great job, so thank you.
Oh, thank you. (laughing)
Good job. (clapping) That was great. But, you see what we're doing here, is it became a lot easier, it became a lot quicker, a lot more fluent, the more you practice it. And you're really just mimicking the conversation structure. You're thinking it's gonna be on this topic, or it's gonna be on a related topic. And when you think of topics that way, it's probably gonna be something that you have something to say. So, that's the value of free association. Leading the interaction is the next part of defeating awkward silence. So, I just have one simple question: If you were gonna be traveling with a friend who was hopeless with maps, navigation, planning, and everything, would you prepare differently? I think the answer would probably by yes, you would prepare differently. And that you would take charge. You would lead. You would lead the interaction. Another way to put it, you would take ownership and shoulder the burden. So, what's the conversation parallel here? Assume that the other person is not gonna give you anything. Assume that you have to do the work. Assume that you're gonna have to make it as easy for them as possible because, unfortunately, that may be the truth sometimes. I say this sometimes to clients and they say, "Well, that just doesn't seem fair." Yeah, that's true, but you're trying to accomplish something, right? The goal for you is to open the other person up. And be conversationally fluent. So, you're gonna have to put in the work. More often than not. You have to proactively take the burden of filling the gaps, dictating the speed and tempo, preventing silences, awkward silences and lulls, broaching new topics, diving deeper into the old topics. It's essentially acting like a job interview, or talk show host. Versus being a passive participant. It's a very big change to how you approach it. This is the final part of this final lesson. Fallback stories. My favorite part about fallback stories is that you can have them prepared beforehand. You can have these prepared for weeks, for years. You could use the same one on different groups for years. No transition or context needed. You just need the simple four part structure that I'm gonna show you. And really, here's what it sounds like. It just sounds like, "You know what? So my friend just told me..." And this happens to us all the time and we don't think about it. There's more effective ways to do it, like I'm gonna tell you. And you can prepare them beforehand. I know there's usually a lot of questions on storytelling. But, I tend to not focus on that. Because I feel that storytelling itself can be boiled down to one or two major points. We'll just start with the one that you should be able to tell your story in one sentence. Emotionally. The journey. You should be able to tell the story in one sentence. If you can't do that, if you're thinking about your story and you have no idea what it is, that's gonna show in the storytelling. That means you're gonna ramble. You're gonna go everywhere, and finally end up here. And that's when people will already have fallen asleep. So, my take on storytelling is not about the story itself. Rather about the discussion that the story creates. So, because it's about the discussion, relatability is key. I say this to say that interpersonal issues are always a good idea, like I'm gonna show you. Everyone has an opinion on it. Fallback stories have four components: there's a bridging sentence, there's the story itself, abbreviated version. There's your opinion, and then there's their opinion. You're asking and soliciting their opinion in three or four ways. Okay, here's an example of the fallback story. Very easy, compact. It's self contained. You can have it. "A friend just told me," that's the bridging sentence, "her boyfriend wants to get rid of her dog before he moves in with her. Only thing is, it's her place." My opinion is, I don't know, I think he should maybe ... I think that's a discussion, but I think if he's trying to move there, the dog has precedence., right? The dog was there first. So then you ask, that was my opinion. When I share my opinion, that makes it okay for the other person to share. That opens them up because I've shared first. I've put a stance out. I've made myself somewhat vulnerable. And the fourth part is: what do you think about this? Is this something you would do? Did you have a pet growing up? How would you treat them? Do you think a pet is like a family member? So, when you put that altogether, you get a fallback story that is self contained. And what do you think happens after that? Then it's a very easy way for the other person to answer. You asked four questions. You see their face light up at one, and they're gonna go off in one direction. The reason that this is such a good one is because it's relatable. I think each and every one of you has an opinion on this. And that's the point of using interpersonal issues. You don't have to put people on blast. You don't have to talk negatively about other people. You can even make these up. But, the point is, to have something relatable. Because that's where the discussion comes from. Here's another one. So, you see the simple bridging sentence is very easy. "A friend just told me she proposed to her boyfriend. Female proposed to male." I thought, when I heard this, it's 2016, I support that. We're progressive-ish, right? What do you think about that? Would you do that? How would you feel about your significant other if they did that, regardless of what your gender is? What would you say to them? Do you think there was a ring? Anyone have an opinion on this, that they want to share?
I think it's great, why not?
Think it's great, right? Yeah, I think so. It's progressive. So, the point is, you can drop these in anywhere. And then, immediately, you're gonna talk about this new and interesting topic that you have prepared beforehand. Just drop the bomb in, let it go. Looks like we've reached the end. Conversation skills perfected? What I want to ask you is do you feel closer to your conversation goals? I think I briefly asked what they were. And I know I definitely went over some of them. I went over some of the benefits that you're gonna receive. But, what I hope to have presented to you are real, actionable tips. So not just theoretical tips, just actual things that you feel like you can do to actually improve your social life and your situation. Become more confident, and witty banter, which is of course always the overall goal. I also like to think that you have the tools now to be the conversation superhero. I hope you feel that way too. And, really, I want to thank you for sticking with me all day. And thank you for coming again.
Cool, now before we do wrap up, I wanna hear from any of our students here, now that you guys have gone through these exercises, what were some of your big takeaways? Do you guys feel more confident to get out there and be in some new social situations? Anyone want to share? We've been sharing all day, I think now, nobody can be nervous anymore.
Well, I definitely think I have the tools now using some of the scripting and some of the nine -
Nine tips and responses.
Responses to actually feel like I can lead a conversation without fear.
Very good, anybody else have anything to share?
I really like the conversation thread.
Yeah, it's tougher than you thought, right?
Yeah, but I think it's a good tool to just keep the conversation moving.
Right, yeah, it lets you know more about yourself and your conversation habits, and it lets you hook onto other people's.
I think overall this was just really good to just reflect on yourself and think about where do you want to grow, and what do you want to work on. I really liked the idea of the hooks. Just knowing that it can just be something concise, but meaningful detail at the same time. And that grabs people and leads to other conversation.
Yeah, I think I got a couple things out of this. Number one is sometimes conversations can sort of be of amorphous kind of thing, and then you provide some really good frameworks structure to it. And number two, I also like the part where you talked about everyone's bad habits. I think that as you were going through it, I think I gained some insight into my own bad habits. And, I guess, have you ever, in terms of how to explore that, maybe getting good feedback from other people. Like, how would you explore ... ? I guess you would talk to some close friends.
To know your habits?
To elicit some feedback.
Yeah, you ask people. The whole reason they're bad habits is because we don't have the self awareness to not, right?
Self awareness, right.
We have some people online sharing what they've been learning as well. Tanya says, "Good course. Took lots of notes, will be trying out the tools over the next week." Trev says, "I'm excited to see what my new life is gonna be like with these new tools." So, this is great. Thank you so much. So now, as we wrap things up, I know you got another slide here. How can people stay in touch with you, after we wrap up here?
That's right, I do. You can just find me at PatrickKingConsulting.com. You can email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I keep it pretty simple. I have a pretty low social media profile. Everything kind of leads to there, and runs through there.
For right now, that's all we have thank you so much for watching, but this is a wrap. (clapping)