Thursday, July 11, 2024

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9 Conversation Starters to Avoid Awkward Pauses

With FaceTime and Zoom calls now a regular part of everyday life, it feels like we’re all trying to find ways to avoid the dreaded awkward pause. Due to the nature of a video call, those awkward pauses can happen a little easier, a little more frequently.

Talking over each other can bring pause and awkwardness, technological difficulties can make communication harder, and, in general, talking through a screen is simply less natural than talking face-to-face. The pressure is on. 

It might sound weird to do your homework for a conversation over FaceTime, but that’s what we recommend if you fear awkward pauses.

There are plenty of things to talk about on FaceTime, you just have to think about what gets people excited, what might spark a passionate response. Read on for a few conversation starters you can have at the ready to keep things going smoothly. 

“How has work/school/your hobby been?”

This typically goes over a little better than “how are you?” when you’re on a FaceTime call. If this call is prone to awkward pauses, you should get a little more specific when it comes to things to talk about on FaceTime.

Asking about their work, school, or a hobby you know they’re interested in will be a little more engaging as they’ll usually want to elaborate a little more than just saying “good,” as many do when asked how they are. It’s a reflex. This prompt requires a little more effort. 

Talk About Food. 

People love talking about food. This can be a go-to topic even if you’re not on FaceTime. Food experiences are relatable.

Everybody wants to envision a great meal or hear about something unique you tried, and hearing about a bad meal, food, or restaurant can be even more entertaining. It’s a fail-safe topic that you can take in a few different directions.

  • “I’m hoping to get dinner out this week, is there anywhere you’d recommend?” If someone has had a good experience at a restaurant, they can talk about it forever. If they have a bad experience, they can also probably talk about that forever. This question is typically a winner for sparking easy conversation. 
  • “I went to a restaurant recently that you have to try.” People like hearing about restaurants, too. Everybody’s looking for their next favorite spot. It can branch off into conversations about food, decor, service, and more. 
  • “I cooked this great/awful dish the other day…” Cooking experiences are just as great to chat about whether they’re bad or good. If you’ve done a bad job in the kitchen, a little self-deprecation can add a lot to a conversation. It will show humility and make the other person comfortable. 

Ask About TV, Books, Movies

This is typically another safe thing to talk about on FaceTime. Almost everybody is watching something, and if not, they’re probably reading something. And the reason we consume this media is to observe it and react to it, so everybody will have an opinion about how that show, movie, or book made them feel.

Asking someone if they’ve watched anything good recently is almost guaranteed to put them in full-fledged critic mode, and you’ll have a full review spilling out of them before you know it.

A media conversation typically keeps itself going, too; even when talking over FaceTime, the conversation can easily turn to other tangential topics like genres, actors, authors, and more. 

“Do you have any exciting plans this week/month?”

If someone has an event or plan they’re excited about, they’re going to spill. This is another conversation starter that can branch off into several other topics. However, this prompt can also be a risky thing to talk about over FaceTime, because if they happen to say “no,” awkwardness could ensue.

Most people would follow up a “no” with an explanation, blaming work, family, or other obstacles, but in the case that somebody doesn’t elaborate at all, you should have a follow up story of your own to go into.

Either tell them how busy you’ve also been, so you can relate to not having time for other things, or commiserate but then tell them about a plan you do have in the future. Or, if you know them well enough, suggest some simple things they could do, events you may know about that they’d like. 

Talk About Pets

This is often an easy thing to talk about over FaceTime because you can launch into the conversation by asking if they have any pets that might be making an appearance on the call. If they do, they may even go get that pet and bring them over, which will spark plenty of conversation.

If not, you can tell them about a pet of your own, or bring up any pet-related FaceTime or Zoom story. If you have none off the top of your head, go Google the lawyer who accidentally had a cat filter over his face on a Zoom call right now. There’s one you can bring up. 

Suggest a Game

Depending on the nature of your call and who you’re speaking to, there are a lot of activities you can do over FaceTime that will make it nearly impossible for awkward pauses to come about.

If you’re talking to a friend or family member and you’re just trying to make time to connect from afar, you could consider baking or cooking together while you chat.

Having an activity to do, even if you’re both doing your own different one, allows for plenty of conversation starters in itself as you talk about what you’re up to. It also can eliminate awkward pauses altogether; a pause isn’t so awkward when you’re both wrapped up in a task. 

If you’re talking to a child and running out of conversation topics (or if they’re not engaged), there are still ways to find things to talk about on FaceTime.

There are even apps and programs you can connect to your devices so you can do interactive virtual activities together, like play games, do puzzles, or even bake some virtual cookies.

Kids don’t always view social interactions the way adults do, and they may not be conscious of awkward pauses or how to fill them. Having virtual activities on hand can make the FaceTime call just another gametime for them, and it’ll be a great way to spend quality time together without any FaceTime awkwardness. 

Final Tips

Regardless of who your scheduled FaceTime call is with, make sure you’re in a quiet place to make the conversation flow better.

FaceTime can be tough enough to have an uninterrupted conversation as it is, with the potential for lag times and pauses; it helps to eliminate the interruptions you can control, so head to a private space for the call if you have one available.

Also, try to focus on them, not yourself. If you’re looking at yourself too much, you’re not going to be absorbing what they say as well, which can affect the ease of the conversation and make space for awkward pauses.

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