When you’re having a conversation – what’s the longest amount of time both of you can be silent before the moment becomes officially awkward? 4 seconds. Why? Because that's how long it takes for you to feel like you've been rejected.
Dutch researchers analyzed volunteers as they watched 2 short videos showing a group of students talking. In both clips, a student named "Linda" makes a controversial statement. In the first video, her friends immediately change the subject. But in the second clip, Linda’s friends don’t say anything for 4 seconds before they eventually resume the conversation.
Then volunteers completed a questionnaire which asked things like, “How do you think Linda felt during the awkward silence?”
The result? Researchers found that people automatically equate silence with rejection. Psychologists say that as humans, we need to feel like we belong, and we need constant social validation. So, if there’s a lull in the conversation, we instantly think that something’s wrong, or that the other person must not like us.
So, keep that in mind the next time here’s a 4 second pause in the conversation.