Embrace the Silence

George Stephanopoulos

Lesson time 04:26 min

Sometimes the most profound communication happens when you aren’t saying anything. In this lesson, George talks about what is being expressed in the silent moments. Learn how to use silence to prompt your subject to talk more.

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Topics include: Embrace the Silence


[REPEATED BASS NOTE] [QUIRKY STRING MUSIC] - The silence you allow in a conversation can be as important as the words you speak. What is that phrase, companionable silence? There are silences when you're riding in a car with your spouse where it feels perfectly natural for half an hour just to be alone with your own thoughts. And it doesn't feel awkward in any way, shape, or form, and it's not a kind of isolation. It's just, for a while, you're enjoying a moment together alone, but in silence. But most human interactions, when you're sitting with someone, you expect something to be happening. You expect some kind of conversation, some kind of communication. And I think it's important to understand that there are times when silence can be a tool to furthering that conversation. You know, you don't like it. You're uncomfortable with it, so you want to fill it with another question or another thought right away. But that doesn't give the other person the space they need to formulate their thoughts, or to come up with the right answer, or to work through their own discomfort and communicate what they need to communicate in the moment. [UPBEAT MUSIC] Sometimes, when you ask a question and you don't get a clear answer right away-- you can't always do this, depends on how much time you have-- the best thing to do is just sit there. Let the silence take hold. Most people will feel a need to fill that space if you give them the time to do it, 'cause they-- the fact that you're not saying something is communicating some sense of dissatisfaction that the person you're interviewing will feel often, not always. You know, people get pretty good at being interviewed as well, and they learn how to resist that and be fearless in return, but will often feel, then, the need to fill that space and give you more of the answer that you were looking for. It's natural to want to fill that silence, to fill that awkward silence in a conversation. Practice not always doing it. Practice just-- you know, next time you're having an uncomfortable conversation with a colleague or a friend or a spouse, and you can tell that the silence is getting a little uncomfortable, give it an extra beat and see what happens. It's not always the right thing to do. Sometimes you do have to fill the space. Sometimes you do have to move on to the next subject. But it's important to watch the other person, to read them, and to use silence in moments to advance a conversation. [UPBEAT MUSIC] You're always taking a little bit of a risk when you go silent in a conversation or an interview. And that means that, when you try it, you have to be alert to what's happening. You know, there-- someone can give you a look after you've gone silent that is telling you, I don't care how long we sit here. I'm not going to say another word. And that can create a bit of a standoff. And sometimes you have to be willing to sit with that just for an extra ...

About the Instructor

Legendary interviewer and broadcaster George Stephanopoulos has navigated challenging interviews for more than 30 years—as former White House communications director and presently as co-anchor of Good Morning America. Now he’s teaching you how to project confidence under pressure and draw the best value from your own professional and personal interactions, becoming a stronger, more intentional communicator.

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George Stephanopoulos

Award-winning interviewer George Stephanopoulos teaches you his techniques for producing authentic, meaningful conversations.

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