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Don't fill the silence illustration: Someone does much better at eliciting a more in-depth response by simply waiting after asking their question rather than filling in an awkward silence

Don't fill the silence

It's easy to want to fill an awkward silence. Often, however, a pause in conversation is time people need to think. When conducting research, and maybe just in normal conversations, try to trust the questions that you ask and avoid filling the silence after asking a question. Just wait and listen.

My experience is that it's very easy to follow a nice open-ended question such as "How do you feel about it now?" with all sorts of qualifications or assumptions because a silence feels uncomfortable. It can quickly become, "How do you feel about it now?...I guess it must have been hard for you, right?" And instead of giving someone space to share a thoughtful answer of your open-ended question all you might get is a "Yes" and perhaps your chance of finding out what they really thought has gone. Instead, have faith in what you ask and stick out the silence.

Also see: prefer open-ended questions, some social research tips

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