The most important thing about conversation flow is to understand that pauses are commonplace. Almost every time you have an awkward silence with someone it is rarely as bad as you think. Usually, what appears to be five minutes to you is only a few seconds. These pauses may seem incredibly scary when you’re talking to someone you want to make a good impression on; however, there are pauses all the time in normal conversations with your friends. You may not notice them, as they’re a very normal part of conversation.

New research from Holland suggests that good conversational flow has a powerful effect on people’s feelings of self-esteem and belonging, and that even brief — just four seconds long — silences during a conversation are enough to elicit primal fears, activating anxiety-provoking feelings of incompatibility and exclusion.”Conversational flow is associated with positive emotions, and a heightened sense of belonging, self-esteem, social validation, and consensus,” a research team led by psychologist NamkjeKoudenburg wrote in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. “Disrupting the flow by a brief silence produces feelings of rejection and negative emotions.”

The researchers suggest that sensitivity to signs of rejection and exclusion arose during our evolutionary history — one in which being excluded from a group could literally mean the difference between life and death. These days, luckily, the consequences of social rejection are typically far less dire — even if it doesn’t feel that way at the time.Bearing that in mind you can understand why we react so negatively to pauses in the conversation; but these pauses help other people find time to speak, and allow you to put the pressure on them to speak further. You need to make sure you don’t take all of the weight of the conversation on yourself or else you run the risk of over investing and chasing away the person you’re trying to get to chase you. Remember, there are two of you in the conversation; if there is an awkward pause then it’s the other person’s fault as much as yours. Sometimes it’s better to relax, sit back and let them find something cool to say.

If you keep having awkward silences after speaking to someone for over five minutes and you’re finding that it’s a real uphill struggle to continue the conversation, follow these tips:

Remember what we discussed before. If you’re responding to everything the other person says, you’re never going to run out of conversation. As long as they offer up something, there’s so much you can pull from it. If somebody says ‘The cat sat on the mat’, you can talk about cats, you can talk about mats or you can talk about sitting on them – three different subjects from that one phrase.

Make a statement to relate to it like, “Oh my gosh, I have a cat!’ and perhaps a question following that: “So what’s the best thing about your cat?” If you are following everything they say with a statement then a question, you’re never going to run out of conversation.

By keeping conversation flowing freely and allowing the other person to fill any awkward silences, you should find your conversational skills are more than adequate to keep talking for as long as you need.

Sometimes though, not only is silence not awkward, it is definitely essential to two people understanding each other! With a greater level of appreciation comes more efficient conversation, a larger amount of knowledge conveyed with fewer words. A feeling of deep understanding can then flourish between them, leading to a strong foundation for a relationship and future discussions.

Awkward silences can also be an important gauge to measure if the person you’re talking to is actually just boring. If you’re having a conversation with someone and they look really attractive on the outside, but the conversation is incredibly dull and very hard to keep up, there is a chance that they are just plain boring. And if that’s the case, you might want to think seriously about whether you do want to get into a relationship with this person or whether you want to move on.