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8 Signs of a Boring Conversation: How to Know When to End It

end conversationI have a weird gift, which sometimes seems more like a curse. No matter how boring or uninteresting the topic of conversation is, I can not just start daydreaming or planning vacation in my mind. People talk, I listen.

This might be a great skill, but part of my problem is that weeks and even months later I remember most of the details that people cared to share with me: their astrological signs, their blood pressure, names of their pets. Sometimes I think that my brain is a huge store of bits and pieces of information (and not all of it can be defined as “useful”).

In general, I enjoy listening to people’s routines, hobbies, children, or their experiences. To me it is like a window into someone else’s life and I appreciate that a person is sharing it with me.

However, at times what is interesting to us, is not necessarily interesting to everyone we talk to. I know that I can talk for hours about psychological experiments, healthy eating, yoga, travelling, motivation, life of successful people, deserts or my niece. So unless you are REALLY interested in discussing these topics, please do not get me started. 🙂

I am sure that your too have your favorite topics that you are passionate about, but your enthusiasm and interests might not always be shared by every single person you talk to. That is why it helps to know when to end a conversation or change the topic.

Here are a few signs of boredom that you need to watch out for when talking to people:

1. Responding the same way over and over.

Really?”, “Right”, “Yeah” “Uh-huh” – these tired replies accompanied with occasional nods, are usually indicators that people are not too engaged in the conversation. They might listen, because good manners are binding them to do so, but they really would like to talk about something else.
Another thing that I noticed is that when people repeatedly say “That’s funny”, the story is not that amusing to them. After all, when something is truly funny, we laugh!

2. Repeating the last phrase that has just been said.

The information we ignore does not disappear immediately. If needed, we are able to pull the last few words that have just been said by the other person from our sensory memory into a more conceptual immediate memory. This is what most of us do to when we do not want to be rude and give the impression that we were not paying attention to the conversation – we simply repeat the last phrase in a questioning tone of voice.

3. Asking simple questions.

People who are not very interested in a topic ask simple questions such as “What did you do this weekend?”, “How is your family?” The questions become more specific as the curiosity grows.

4. Changing body position.

Non-verbal signals that our body sends are far more reliable than the words we say. Some of the postures to look out for in a conversation are leaning away from the speaker, pointing feet towards the door, crossed arms on the chest, sitting with crossed legs and kicking a foot slightly. They usually convey just one emotion – boredom. Conversely, when we are interested in conversation we tend to lean towards the speaker, while ‘mirroring’ their gestures.

5. Yawning.

A great conversation should be like a refreshing desert that leaves you wanting for more, not a hearty meal that drains your energy and puts you to sleep. If the person you are talking to yawns frequently or suppresses an urge to yawn, take it as a signal to keep the conversation short and to the point.

6. Breaking eye contact.

Our gaze often follows the trace of our thoughts. When we are truly engaged in the conversation we give our full attention to the speaker. But as our thoughts wander away from the conversation, so does our gaze. If a person continually breaks eye contact while speaking or has that far away look, it can mean only one things – their thoughts are very far from the topic of the conversation.

7. Playing with something in their hands.

A study published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology reveals that when people are asked to retain tediously delivered information, they may unconsciously channel their anxiety through gestures like drumming fingers, picking clothes, doodling, clicking pen or playing with a wrist watch. Curiously enough, these gestures actually help the mind to stay focused on what is being said, but the question is – how important is it for us to share the information with someone who is trying hard not to doze off?

8. Not participating in the conversation.

Often when we are talking about something that we are passionate about, we tend to focus our attention on ourselves, forgetting to check if the other person wants to comment or speak about something else. A conversation is a two-way street. Otherwise, it quickly turns into a monologue. If the person you are talking to is being passive or too quiet, maybe you are not giving them an opportunity to participate in the conversation?

Do you sometimes find yourself talking too much or are you one of those rare people, who prefers to listen?

What do you do when you are bored by the conversation?

6 Comments
  • Gareth
    November 13, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    Great article! They do say the funniest things are those that people can relate to the most so I did have a little chuckle to a few of these. I think everyone is guilty of doing these things pretty regularly I know I am. A lot of the times it doesn’t necessarily mean I bored, but when I am I just tend to change or redirect the conversation perhaps using something they’ve mentioned in this ‘boring’ conversation, family maybe? Sometimes though you just have to suck it up or get another beer…

    • Arina
      November 16, 2011 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks, Gareth. I’m glad that you enjoyed this article. I loved your comment about getting another beer when everything else fails. 🙂 Too bad I do not drink beer. But I can can probably substitute it with an apple pie. You can talk to me about anything, while I am enjoying my desert and I will always look happy and enthusiastic. 🙂

  • James
    November 16, 2011 at 7:56 am

    Please don’t change the topic every time you find me starring through the window. I AM listening!

    I got my attention called many times while in school. But I was listening. It is just my way of getting in what they are saying – I stare away and … listen.

    But then I tried to be nice and kept my eyes all along on that lady. With a courteous appearance, I was though asleep lol

    • Arina
      November 16, 2011 at 5:36 pm

      I guess looking out of the window for you, is somewhat similar to my doodling habit. 
      It helps you to stay concentrated on the message but, unfortunately, your efforts are not in the least appreciated by others. They still believe that you are daydreaming. 
      Do you still have this habit of staring out of the window while listening to a person? I hope that it does not get you in trouble during the business meetings….

  • James
    November 16, 2011 at 8:23 am

    Another idea that came to my mind and that I would like to share with you, Arina, and your readers – I know of a man who, when listening tries to guess what I am going to say next. He is so good at that that I always get the impression that he is most interested in everything I am saying. And that’s true, after all, he is.

    I tried this too, and it works. Whenever I start this “game”, the conversation, however boring, turns into a fun. It is not passive yawning any longer but a kind of sports.

    So you might be quite well of even yawning or playing with things as long as you are guessing (most often right) what your partner intends to say 🙂

    • Arina
      November 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      🙂 It is a very helpful skill to be able to finish a phrase for someone else.
       I should try doing this more often myself. You’re right – it is fun, but more importantly it keeps you focused on the conversation. Thanks for the great tip, James!

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