While the extroverts of the world might disagree, holding a fruitful conversation with someone proves to be a mammoth task for even the best of us. Often, we realise only too late that we don’t actually have anything exhilarating to talk about, resulting in a dreadful bout of stuttering, awkward wayward glances. Eventually, a self-deprecating evening spent curled up in a figurative hole in the floor.
If you find yourself struggling to make worthwhile conversations, then you could be making some of these nine common mistakes.
No, I don’t mean interrogating them about their entire family heritage. For a start, focus on questions about topics that are relevant to both of you. If the conversation takes place in a public setting, aim for questions about school, work or perhaps recent happenings.
You can also enquire about their favourite food, artists, music! While these questions can come off as mundane or low effort, the key is to ask questions that the other party will enjoy answering. On that note, don’t be afraid to raise questions about something they said – especially if it’s something you’re not familiar with. People naturally like talking about themselves, so ask them things you’d like others to ask you!
When we say this, we don’t mean staring obsessively at their face, trying to catch their eyes. This will definitely earn you a couple of furrowed brows and confused glances, which you want to avoid as much as possible.
If the person is speaking while facing your direction, it’s actually a common courtesy to hold eye contact where appropriate. This shows the other person that you’re genuinely interested in what they’re saying and will prompt them to do the same when it comes time for you to speak!
When engaging someone in a conversation, our faces can give away a lot. Expressions are the most telling when it comes to our feelings, so learning to be wary of the expressions we make when conversing is a beneficial tool in having productive discussions!
While you don’t need to practice in front of a mirror, keeping an open mind when entering a discussion with someone is helpful. Avoid jumping to conclusions quickly and instead, practice withholding your judgment to understand what the other person may be driving at. Who knows, you might even learn something new!
Have you ever listened without actually listening? Perhaps you’ve gone through an entire conversation, nodding obediently where necessary, but had no idea what transpired during the discussion? If this is how you find yourself after a conversation, it could be time to start practising intuitive listening.
Intuitive listening refers to reading between the lines and picking up clues or cues that may hint at a larger picture. While you don’t need to go all CSI on the other person during a conversation, mastering the ability to pick up verbal cues may prove handy. Be it asking timely follow-up questions or avoiding certain sensitive topics, learning to listen intuitively makes you a more effective communicator, which in turn helps level up your conversation-making skills!
While it can be impolite to subject a person to an onslaught of loud, rambunctious laughter while they’re speaking, underreacting is a serial conversation killer. Underreacting is actually a lesser-known reason behind many a failed conversation. From those who remain indifferent throughout the conversation to those who seem outright bored or uninterested.
Avoid robotic nods and gestures like yawning, rubbing your eyes or looking away; these may come off to the other person as disinterest. When possible, keep a small smile on your face and try to use a variety of verbal cues when responding during the conversation. If you feel the need to excuse yourself, wait for the person to finish speaking before politely interjecting.
Another serial conversation killer, making everything about you is a major turn-off for even the brightest of socialites. While you may be keen to share knowledge or joke about something that happened recently, talking over others in the conversation may come off as insensitive and, in most cases, disrespectful.
When participating in a group discussion, allow others a chance to speak and share as well. Offer opportunities to others who may be more soft-spoken and learn to halt yourself when you have finished sharing. Conversations are all about a give and take, so make sure you let others have a turn to speak too!
Ever heard someone say something so jarring that it seemed as if the whole room stopped talking for a split second? We’ve all been there, and trust us when we say you don’t want to be on the other end of that excruciating silence. Many of us are guilty of oversharing, and while it isn’t a heinous crime in itself, it can be unpleasant for those around us.
Before sharing something, it’s helpful to read the room and understand the atmosphere, social cues and circumstances surrounding the conversation. If you deduce that what you plan to share may be inappropriate given the circumstances, then it might be best to refrain from sharing at all! This demonstrates a sense of courtesy for the other people in the conversation and saves you from a gnarly bout of embarrassment and regret. Suppose you’re unsure if you’re oversharing, lookout for signs of discomfort from those around you. Tell-tale signs often include awkward glances and nervous laughs!
We’ve all been on the receiving end of one or two badly timed jokes. While your first reaction may be to lash out and nurse your bruised ego, the best thing to do is just to let it go. I’m sure many of you will disagree, and some find it hard just to let things slide, but if you seek to improve your conversational skills, you’ll have to learn to take yourself less seriously.
Let’s face it. You lashed out and possibly threw a fit because your ego got bruised. In such situations, remind yourself that this person does not truly know you and makes a statement that could very well be untrue. If you were bothered by the interaction, try expressing your discomfort privately. Always opt to resolve conflicts civilly!
In the age of wokeism, this is a naturally occurring phenomenon. With the throng of long-standing social, justice, economic or financial issues in existence, we inevitably see clashes in opinion. Fueled by a sense of “I’m right, and everyone else is wrong”, many people enter into conversations to preach about what they believe to be right – a sure-fire way to start an unnecessary feud.
When met with a person with different values or opinions, it’s helpful to take a step back and listen to what they have to offer. Every individual brings something new to the table, and it’s essential to retain an open mind in such situations. While it can be enticing to rebuke the other person’s claims, it displays a certain amount of narrow mindedness and inflexibility, which can deter others from approaching you in the future. Not all conversations are a tongue tussle to determine who is right and who is not, so no need to treat it as such!
Of course, the above tips are merely suggestions and really learning to walk the talk involves practice, practice and more practice. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; whoever you’re talking to is probably as nervous as you are! Always strive to be respectful and considerate, and put your ego aside. We guarantee you’ll be levelling up your conversations in no time!