Don’t let lulls in conversation overwhelm you. Most are innocent enough. You’re conversing, the topic runs out, then there’s what feels like an awkward silence that needs to be filled with any noise, so you might rush to fill the air with any topic you can think of immediately. Don’t! Let conversations rest and breathe. In less innocent conversations, like negotiation or dealing with manipulative individuals, filling air superfluously will put you at a disadvantage.
Let’s say you’ve just met someone you find attractive.
The natural inclination might be keeping the conversation going at all costs. You might feel the need to impress by showing off as many of your strengths as you can. Most people are only interested in others to a limited degree, then they want to talk about themselves. So let them talk about themselves, then subtly compliment them, if you want to keep that attraction going.
It’s easier to practice with long-term friends and casual acquaintances.
Let’s say you’re having a conversation about something where the topic runs out. Let the silence run for an additional moment, intentionally watching the other person and your surroundings, to see what happens. That pause will usually invite the truth. Did they need to excuse themselves for a moment or longer? Did they change topics? Or did they ask for more information about your topic?
Each teaches you how to handle less innocent negotiation.
You can pre-emptively read into the answers to those questions in multiple ways. Too much of that is analysis paralysis. You could instead break the fourth wall, in a sense, by asking long-term friends directly at that next potentially awkward spot what they thought about the previous conversation. Good friends may tell you. Indifferent acquaintances may also be comfortable telling you their truth. Both are useful.
Learn the weaknesses of yourself and the other.
People fear that silence because it can reveal their true selves. They may fidget because they’re nervous or look around to what they most desire. Watch for any changes with your piercing glare hidden underneath your calm face. That’s your “poker face.” When people can’t read your facial expression in your most stressed situations, you gain an upperhand, because then you can start to read their motivations.
While negotiating, watch how they use and bend language.
“It would really be a disservice to our customers” has three juicy examples:
(1) “It would really”
Passive language like this is neutral, authoritative, with openness inviting doubt. Contrasted with active language, such as “you’d really be,” there is implied instruction perfect for manipulation.
Word choice can be considered part of nonverbal communication. Maybe because when people use emotional words like this, you can discover how they’re feeling, just like reading eye contact?
(3) “Our customers”
Inclusive language can be a negotiations tactic swaying the other party’s hand by appealing to team pride. If you hear anything other than neutral language, become instantly suspicious.
My response was confident silence.
Anticipating this game of emotional manipulation, I checkmated.