Stephen Clare / The Silhouette


Like all good Sex and the Steel City articles, this one starts with a calculus analogy. Imagine graphing a date, with time on the x-axis and quality on the y-axis. The function is a polynomial, with intriguing conversations on the peaks and bad jokes and boring stories on the down slopes. Now look for the inflection points: the changes in slope of the graph, when the date goes from good to bad (or vice versa).

Those moments are quiet ones. The dreaded awkward silences, the bane of every hopeful suitor’s existence. Many people feel the need to fill every minute of a date with conversation, thinking that even a few seconds of silence betrays their insecurity or plainness.

That’s not true, though. In fact, moments of silence can be the best part of any date. Yes, they can be awkward, but they also represent opportunity. When is there silence? At the end of a conversation, or before an answer to a question, or when both you and your date are taking a moment to think about how things are going. All of these are times when you have an opportunity to change the tone or direction of a date. A chance to bet a little more.

So use them. Don’t just sigh and say “So... what do you have planned for the summer?” That is boring and awkward. That’s why people fear the awkward silence.

Try to deepen the conversation by asking something more meaningful. Once you’ve got the hometowns and summer plans out of the way you can get more intimate in conversation (though of course you have to get comfortable through less personal talk first). Use the silence to make this transition.

The ultimate thing to do in a momentary silence is go DEFCON 1 and lean in for the kiss. It is your best opportunity, and if you keep waiting until the “perfect moment” you will go home disappointed. Now obviously this takes some finesse. Don’t go for it in the awkward beat after your date just finished telling you about how their dog got hit by a car or they didn’t get the job they wanted or something like that. But if an intense conversation just trailed off, and the room is quiet but also there’s this intense buzzing in your ears, and they’re kinda looking at you in that certain way where their head is tilted a bit to the left and their eyebrows are pricked slightly up, and nobody seems to want to talk anymore... well.

And that’s why I like awkward silences: they’re not a dead end, they’re an intersection. So don’t miss your exit. Make sure the slope of that graph keeps climbing.

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