For my church planting residency at Urban Village Church, my mentor challenged me to have meaningful discussions with at least 25 new people every week. You may be thinking: Doesn’t it get awkward?
Indeed, the awkward pause has discouraged church folk from starting conversations for a long time—and when you’re meeting 25 people a week there is bound to be some awkwardness.
However, the energy of an awkward pause can be harnessed to deepen your self-awareness.
Here are common causes of awkward pauses I have experienced and some easy ways I used the moment to deepen my self-awareness:
Cause: You (or your conversation partner) are thinking about something they don’t think they can say. Your mind space is occupied with a comment, but you worry that speaking it will turn things sour. Response: Run a quick mental analysis on the power dynamics between you and your partner. If you are in a position of privilege, own it and show some vulnerability. If you feel your partner has unchecked privilege, use humor, tact, or necessary bluntness to name the differential.
Awkward pauses happen when you’re not really listening. Driven out of a fear of facing an awkward pause, it’s a natural tendency to think ahead: I don’t want to have an awkward pause, the thinking goes, so what am I going to say next? Response: Be still. Muster the courage to make this conversation about them, not you, by taking the risk of simply listening.
Cause: Your conversation partner thinks you have a secret agenda. S/he is waiting for you to “drop the bomb” of asking to attend church, give money, or bake something for the potluck. Response: If you don’t have an agenda, say so early and sincerely. If you do have an agenda, don’t reduce this child of God to merely a contribution. Show that you recognize and cherish their full humanity before any proposals happen. Stay tuned for part two—how to prevent awkward pauses!
Stay tuned for part two - How to prevent awkward pauses
Disclaimer: I am neither a psychologist nor a sociologist, and I have not done a literature review on the topic (who has time for that? I have 25 people to meet.). Consider these field notes from literally hundreds of conversations I have enjoyed in the past couple of months.