The heat spreads across your face as the pink in your cheeks deepens to a bright red. Before the tiny bead of sweat first appears on your forehead, you realize that you have just killed the conversation with a few mistaken words. Many of us go through this horrible experience gritting our teeth and hoping it won’t happen again, but all too often it does. Sometimes we kill the conversation without even knowing it was our fault. Job interviews, relationships, and negotiations are just some the events that can be affected by the death of a conversation. To help you prevent this untimely demise you should avoid the following ten conversation killers at all costs.
Don’t get stuck on yourself. Many people don’t even realize how often they switch the conversation back to themselves. It can sometimes be difficult to identify the moment when connecting becomes projecting. What I mean is that part of communicating is connecting with one another by pointing out similarities and sharing experiences. One way to keep the conversation equal is to make sure that you are asking questions. A conversation is made up of turns. First one person speaks, than the other, than the other, etc. Make sure that every other time you get to speak you are commenting or questioning what the other participants are saying. This will make sure that conversation stays even.
Don’t interrupt the conversation. After a few attempts to get their points across, people will eventually stop trying. The result is a killed conversation. This is a slow death that you can stop by just paying attention. The hardest part of a conversation is listening. It is always easy to talk, but listening and understanding can be the real challenge. However, if you pay attention to the body language as well as the words, you will be able to tell when your interrupting is starting to take its toll on the conversation.
Don’t be a downer. Misery loves company, but this is a one way attraction. No one wants to hear all negatives. Although you don’t need to put on your rose colored glasses to keep a conversation, you should too many negative topics in a row. In fact, there are times when negative topics should be avoided altogether. These include special occasions like birthdays and weddings, where a positive experience is necessary to develop positive memories.
Don’t be repetitive. Period. There is something about human nature that just does not want to let go. Period. Whether it is a word, phrase, or topic, we get stuck on one subject and won’t let it go. Period. This is more than annoying, as it hinders the natural flow of a conversation. Now, looking at the word period you notice right away the annoyance of repetition, but for some reason when speaking we have trouble identifying the annoyance. Believe me its there and it will kill your conversation. Period.
Don’t talk down. It is no surprise to me that geniuses sometimes have problems in the social sector. It can be hard sometimes to explain complex items fully without assuming that your audience has no knowledge of the subject. Whether you are talking about astro physics or love, you need to choose your words wisely and not make any assumptions about your audience. Another way to avoid talking down to a person is to avoid technical terms whenever possible.
Don’t be a potty mouth. Even in an argument resorting to curse words just shows your lack of vocabulary. Find other ways to express your point. You never know who you are going to offend. Don’t find yourself slipping offensive verbiage into an important conversation just because your mouth is used to it.
Don’t be judgmental. Don’t make judgments based on anything other than fact. Don’t make assumptions based on appearance, race, sex, age or any other factor. Not only can a few mistaken words in this area kill a conversation, they can be illegal and immoral. This also applies to topics. You shouldn’t make any judgments until you have heard all of the information.
Don’t change the subject. If the conversation is rolling on the topic of politics, don’t but in with a story about your hiking. This actually is a type of interrupting and can have a deadly effect on the conversation. If the topic has dwindled and the is heading for a natural end, than you can change the subject to what ever you want.
Don’t Gossip. We do entirely too much of this activity and frankly some people may be offended. It takes intelligence to keep a conversation going. On the other hand, repeating what you heard someone else say as if it were fact shows a lack thereof.
Don’t mumble. I tried to keep these conversation killers to just the art of communicating itself, however I couldn’t ignore the mechanics of it as well. One way to loose a conversation is to loose the understanding through poor diction or low volume. Speak clearly and you will only have to say it once.
If you want to keep your conversation alive, I urge you to avoid the poisons listed above. It only takes a few words to ruin a conversation. It only takes one ruined conversation to loose a job, friend, understanding, and support.