Comfortable Silence

There are many reasons for silence in the viva:

  • A moment while a broadband router buffers in the background.
  • Time while a page is consulted or a note made.
  • Processing time while someone thinks through the implications of a comment.
  • Thinking time in a candidate’s mind while they prepare a response.

The latter might feel unnerving, but none of these could feel particularly comfortable. Silence invites speculation. Knowing possible reasons doesn’t dissolve fears, it simple gives you something else to wonder about.

Rehearsals help. A mock viva won’t be a way to learn your lines like a play, but can give you the confidence to be in that space. Silence is just silence. The reasons don’t matter in a way. The silence is the space between the discussion. You have to wait for it to pass, or use it to help you think.

Practise and get comfortable with the little moments of quiet that you’re sure to find in your viva.

The Terrible, Terrible Silence

Silence, in almost any kind of meeting, is almost unbearable. Do you know what I mean? The gap in conversation invites tension, creates a shared awkwardness… Sometimes it can feel almost overwhelming.

I used to notice it a lot when I was standing in front of a seminar room. Often just before I started or whenever I would ask a question. Everyone waiting for someone to speak, but perhaps not wanting that person to be them.

And I know that people worry about it for their viva. What happens if you have to pause? What happens if you have to ask for a moment? What happens if someone doesn’t speak for a short time? – something likely to happen given the time it takes for signals to move around the world between different places!

The answer to all of these is that nothing bad happens.

Silence is a by-product of a necessary pause in things. A wait before we begin, a pause while you think, a moment while the signal comes back. Silence isn’t bad, it just feels bad.

The only way past it, I think, is to practise: have a mock viva, pause before you answer and get comfortable with the silence. Use whatever meeting software might be used for your remote viva and take time to get used to those little delays.

Sit with the silence, and see it for what it is. Not terrible, not bad, not somehow good: just one small part of the viva process.