Conversation is a base for any relationship. Through conversation we stay connected with other people, express our thoughts and feelings, learn new information, resolve problems and reach an understanding with each other.
How other people treat you and what they think of you is almost fully dependent on your communication skills. Unfortunately, not everyone feels at ease when talking to other people.
In fact, many people who are convinced that they are have good conversation skills, actually confuse “talkativeness” with “ability to carry on a good conversation”. As we are all aware, quantity of words said per minute does not necessarily improve the quality of conversation.
If sometimes you feel that:
• you can not get the point across
• you have trouble carrying on a conversation
• you find it difficult to come to an understanding with some people
You might want to watch out for these serious conversation mistakes that can turn off people instantly and make them avoid talking to you at all costs:
1. Make it about you. We often think that in order to impress other people we have to share with them how much we know and how many interesting things we have done. But the truth is that 99% of people have exactly the same belief. While you are talking about your life, you do not give them a chance to impress you and share something that is more important to them – their own thoughts and ideas. They want to talk about their stuff, share their stories and opinions, not listen to you talking about yourself.
It may sound harsh, but it is true. I found that the fastest and easiest way to make friends and impress other people is talk less about me and ask more questions about things that they are interested in.
You can tell that when you have got too carried away – when the person you are talking to:
- just nods his head without saying a word
- looks at his watch
- throws glances past your shoulder
- crosses his arms and leans back
2. Be a moralist. Another thing we all love to do is give other people advice about what they should and should not do. It is a wonderful intention to help others, but it is only effective when a person asks you for your opinion.
You: “I need to start working out. I was so busy this past week that I had no time to eat properly.”
Your co-worker: “Yeah I know. You eat too much junk food. I just don’t get it, why people would eat something that they know is not good for them? For example, I am always careful about what I eat. And I run 4, 5 miles every morning…Blah-blah-blah… I am-so-wonderful-and-you-are-not- blah…“
Do not make the huge mistake of putting upon your shoulders the task of “weeding out the evils of the world” and propagating goodness. If you are a good, honest and intelligent person, do not rub it into other people’s faces. This will only irritate them, and make them frantically look for an excuse to end a conversation with you.
We can not stand anything that is being pushed on us, not even high values or “personal-growth” advice. If you catch yourself talking about the low morality of the new generation, corrupted politicians, importance of eating raw broccoli and drinking wheat milkshake, stop! Take a deep breath and ask yourself, “Am I starting to sound too “preachy”?”
3. Use negative words. Any word said out loud immediately brings up a series of images in our mind that are connected to that word. Often, when we recall a pleasant conversation that we have shared with a friend, we might not remember what we talked about, but we never forget how this person made us feel. If you want other people to feel nice in your company, avoid using words that trigger negative images in their minds.
It does not mean that you have to be artificially enthusiastic or avoid expressing your disapproval or negative emotions all together. Fortunately, our subconscious mind does not understand the word “not”, so you can get around that. For example, there is a big difference between saying, “This does not look pretty!” or “It is plain ugly!” Both phrases mean the same thing, but while the first statement is neutral, the second one evokes negative emotional baggage.
4. Make sarcastic jokes.
You: “Could you help me? I can’t figure out how to use this new computer program”
Your co-worker: “Are you always this stupid or are you making a special effort today? Hahaha”.
People who try to outsmart everyone in conversation are only funny to themselves, but not to those around them.
There is actually a word for such people – “smart ass (intending a donkey )”. You may say something smart, but it will still only make you an intelligent donkey.
Having a good sense of humor and making other people laugh is a great talent. However, there is a fine line between good-natured humor and an insult.
A sarcastic comment at the wrong time or with the wrong person can back fire at you with a destructive force. And several sarcastic jokes thrown together in one conversation can make you seem obnoxious and rude.
5. Interrupt other people. Asking people a question is relatively easy. Much harder is being genuinely interested in what the other person has to say and direct your full attention to the conversation.
Your co-worker:” So how did your vacation go?”
You: “Oh, it was wonderful. I had a blast. We went to Paris and we stayed in this cute little hotel…”
You co-worker: “OMG! I wanted to go to Paris last year, but my husband couldn’t take more than a week off, so we went to San Francisco. His friend lives there and he has this huge apartment with a patio and a pool… Blah-blah-blah…”
Annoying isn’t it? We hate talking to someone, who does not listen or care about what we have to say. Keep that in mind and do not rob another person of the opportunity to share their stories and their opinions with you. I know that it takes mental effort to stop thinking about what you want to say next and really listen to another person, but it is well worth it.
People immediately sense when we are more interested in our own ideas than in their thoughts.
Therefore, be careful not to fake interest! Because even if you stay quiet and nod politely, your facial micro – expressions, body language, gestures would scream “I don’t care! Better listen to this!” If the person you are talking to picks up this vibe, in the future they will treat you exactly the same way – with indifference.
It takes a little bit of time and effort to eliminate these five conversational mistakes, but give it a try and in a few weeks you will notice that the art of conversation comes naturally to you.
That is when wonderful things start to happen. Your relationships at home improve. You gain your colleagues’ and clients’ trust and sympathy in no time. People, who have been avoiding you in the past, will literally start seeking your company, because they will feel that you are a rare person who really understands them. And as strange as it may sound other people will actually become a lot more interested in getting to know YOU and your opinion!