How to Avoid Awkward Silences and Keep the Talk Going
Mastering the Art of Engaging Conversations in Cambridge Exams Scenarios and Everyday Situations
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where the silence becomes so uncomfortable that you desperately search for something to say? We’ve all been there. Whether it’s at a social get-together, a business meeting, or during a Cambridge speaking exam, being able to keep the conversation flowing smoothly is a valuable skill. In such situations, awkward silences make it difficult to establish a connection with the person we are talking to, so, the string of an effective communication breaks down. However, there are several effective time fillers that can help us avoid those moments, which feel like ages, and keep the conversation going.
Let’s explore some useful time fillers that can help you easily navigate through English-speaking exam and day-to-day conversations.
Time fillers, your conversation lifesaver!
Read below some examples of useful time fillers.
“First of all”
“First of all” is a handy time filler that you can use to introduce a new topic or to emphasize a point you want to make. For example, if you’re discussing your favourite hobbies, you could say, “First of all, I love playing the guitar. It’s been a passion of mine for years.”
“The fact of the matter is”
“The fact of the matter is” is a powerful time filler that allows you to state a point clearly and assertively. It adds weight to your statement and helps you convey your thoughts effectively. For instance, if you’re discussing the benefits of exercise, you could say, “The fact of the matter is, not only does regular exercise improve your physical health but also boosts your mental well-being.”
“Let me tell you why”
“Let me tell you why” is a time filler that allows you to provide reasons or give explanations for a particular statement or point of view. It helps you engage the listener and provide them with additional information. Besides, this is exactly what you need to do in the Cambridge Speaking exam – give an extended answer, isn’t it? For example, if you’re discussing the importance of recycling, you could say, “Let me tell you why recycling is so crucial for our environment and future generations.“
“By the way”
“By the way” is a versatile time filler that can be used to introduce a side note or to add additional information to the conversation. It helps you keep the conversation engaging and dynamic. For instance, if you’re talking about your recent holiday, you could say, “By the way, while I was in Italy, I discovered the most amazing gelato place!“
“At the end of the day”
“At the end of the day” is a time filler that allows you to summarize a discussion or provide a conclusion to a particular topic. It helps you wrap up a conversation smoothly and make your point clear. For example, if you’re discussing the pros and cons of working from home, you could say, “At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference and finding the right balance between work and personal life.“
“Here’s the deal”
“Here’s the deal” is a casual time filler that can be used to present an offer, proposal, or suggestion. It adds a touch of informality to the conversation and helps you convey your message concisely. For instance, if you’re trying to reach a decision on which weekend activity is best, you could say, “Here’s the deal – let’s choose hiking for those who prefer walking and bike riding for those who are not into walking long distances; having a picnic by the lake at the end of the day can be like the icing on the cake.”
“The fact is”
“The fact is” is a straightforward time filler that helps you state a point assertively and without hesitation. It adds clarity and conviction to your statement. For example, if you’re discussing the benefits of reading, you could say, “The fact is, reading not only expands your knowledge but also enhances your creativity and empathy.”
“Let’s be clear”
“Let’s be clear” is a time filler that allows you to clarify a point or provide additional information to avoid any misunderstandings. It helps you ensure that the message is understood correctly. For instance, if you’re discussing which the best reason is for not going to university, you could say, “Let’s be clear – our task is to decide which of these factors could be decisive in opting for not going to study at the university”.
Let’s read a model conversation between two speaking candidates who are discussing the importance to plan things carefully. The topics or prompts provided in the task are the following:
- Special occasions
- Free-time activities
Remember that in the Cambridge exams like B2 First or C1 Advanced, the allotted time in the Speaking paper Part 3, the Collaborative task, is 3 minutes.
The conversation showcases the use of time fillers and various communication techniques such as agreement, disagreement, commenting, and inviting each other to talk.
A: Shall we start talking about the need to plan our leisure time. Do you think this is important?
B: First of all, in my case, planning helps me get the right balance between physical activities and hobbies that help me relax. I enjoy going for a run in the park, and I also love painting. What about you?
A: I want to say that I’m a big fan of playing basketball. It’s a great way to stay active and socialize with friends. So, arranging a day and time with my friends is crucial. By the way, my friends and I are planning to do some water sports this weekend.
B: I’ve tried paddleboarding before, and it was so much fun! The fact of the matter is, water sports provide a unique experience that combines adventure, much fun and relaxation.
A: Absolutely. Let me tell you why I believe it’s essential to plan our studies carefully. Effective study planning allows us to manage our time efficiently. In this way, planning ensures that we cover all the necessary topics or homework tasks. What are your thoughts on this?
B: I completely agree with you. Let’s be clear: study planning helps us stay organized and reduces the chances of feeling overwhelmed before or during exams.
A: Couldn’t agree more! Planning your studies will help you create a healthy routine later on, when it’s time to carefully plan your career. This is crucial for long-term success. By setting clear goals and creating a roadmap, we can make the right decisions and work towards achieving our career targets.
B: I totally go along with that. The fact is, career planning allows us to identify our strengths and interests and find opportunities that match with them. Shall we move on and talk about special occasions? Have you ever planned one, like a birthday party or any other event?
A: Of course! I recently organized a surprise party for my sister’s birthday. By the way, it’s been a huge success.
B: That’s amazing! At the end of the day, what matters most is creating unforgettable memories for our loved ones.
A: Exactly! The fact is, careful planning ensures that we take care of every detail. In this way, the event becomes a beautiful memory.
B: I agree. Planning special occasions with utmost care and thoughtfulness is worth it.
A: Let’s be clear: careful planning is crucial! Take holidays, for example. If we plan, we make the most of our time off and create unforgettable experiences.
B: I absolutely agree.
The time fillers used by the candidates have helped them bridge the gaps between ideas, thoughts, or topics in a B2 First exam situation. Since the candidates might not know each other, the time fillers have helped them successfully keep the conversation. Likewise, these discourse gems have helped the speaking partners buy time to gather their thoughts, find common ground, or simply smoothly transition to a new exam prompt or subject.
In a nutshell, having a repertoire of time fillers can be immensely helpful in avoiding awkward silences and keeping the conversation flowing. Whether it’s by introducing new topics, expressing opinions, sharing facts, or making agreements, time fillers serve as valuable tools for effective communication. So, the next time you find yourself in a conversation that doesn’t flow, remember to use these time fillers and watch as the conversation comes alive.
Call to Action: If you’re preparing for the Cambridge exams or any speaking exam, the use of time fillers can greatly enhance your communication skills. Start incorporating them into your conversations and witness the difference they make to your spoken discourse.
Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!