Just as we can have good and bad habits in life that can push us forward in life or hurt us, we can also have the same in conversation. Some habits will help grow our relationships even deeper and stronger, and other habits can hurt and destroy our relationships.
Here are the 7 deadly habits of conversation that many of us have in our conversations, sometimes without knowing it, and what to do differently.
1. Using Negative Talk
Negative talk can include gossip, complaining, and always talking about the negative side of any situation you are in. When you are negative, it can push people away. The only kind of people negative talk draws is other negative people. The way you talk can affect how you make people feel. When you are negative, it makes people feel negative, and they remember that.
Remember, the way you talk can affect how you make people feel. When you are speaking negatively, it makes people feel negative, and they remember that. The negative feeling reflects back on you.
Complaining is generally pointless anyway. Instead of actually doing something about the issue or talking to the person that they have an issue with, people often just like to complain about it. It’s a wimpy way out. People who constantly complain often make themselves the victim of the situation and try to make themselves feel better by complaining.
Gossip is just bad. It hurts and destroys people and relationships. It’s based on rumor, and it does no good. Just don’t do it.
If you want to draw good people to you and want to have productive conversations, avoid negative talk. Always be positive. Only speak well of people in front of others, and never put people down. Even if a situation is bad, try to find positive aspects of those situations. Do this, and people will be drawn to you, and it will reflect well on you.
2. Speaking Indirectly
Confusion happens enough as it is when people are speaking directly. Sometimes you can be speaking clear as day and each person can interpret what you say differently. How much worse is it when you beat around the bush and say things subtly and indirectly?
It’s not fair for the person you are talking to, especially if you get mad at the person for not “getting it”.
As Dr. Michael Nichols says in The Lost Art of Listening “Like every listener, he measured the intention of other speakers by what they said, or what he heard and asked that they measure him by what he meant to say.”
Be direct with people. Be tactful, yes, but be direct. Be clear about your intentions and what you mean. It’s not fair for the other person otherwise.
It’s also okay to ask the other person to paraphrase what you said to them to make sure they understood. Especially if you are giving instruction or you are in a difficult or hard conversation where emotions are high, making sure people really understand what the other person is saying is very important.
You can say things like “Do you mind repeating back to me what I said? I just want to make sure I was clear” or “I just want to make sure I came across the way I meant to, do you mind repeating back what you think I said?” When giving instructions you can ask them to repeat the steps they need to take or repeat your expectation for the project or task.
(click here to read our article The Danger of Indirectness – Why You Should Just be Straight Up About It)
3. Interrupting Others
I know I’ve said this other times in different posts: interrupting has to be one of the cardinal sins of conversation, yet we do it so much. Often something comes to mind from what the other person says, a point or a similar story, so we jump in with our own story and expect the other person to listen.
Which, if we think about it, is silly, because if you won’t even listen to what they have to say, why would we expect them to listen to us and what we have to say?
Even when we don’t jump in and interrupt, often we aren’t really listening anyway. We are thinking about what we want to say instead of focusing on something else.
Instead, let’s give people our full attention. Let’s make sure the other person is finished before jumping in. And instead of always jumping in with our story, let’s ask them more about their own story.
4. Telling stories at the wrong time
Sometimes someone is sharing an issue with us or a situation that they are going through. Sometimes we think of a similar story that relates. We may even think that sharing our similar story is empathic, so we jump in with our story instead of digging deeper into theirs and hearing them out.
Sharing your similar story with the other person is not being empathic, it’s taking the focus off of them and putting it on yourself. Next time, instead of telling your story, ask them to tell more about theirs. Dig deeper. Ask questions based on the situation that will give you more understanding of how they are feeling and what they are going through.
5. Focusing on yourself instead of the other person
People sometimes think that to be a good conversationalist, they have to be interesting. While being interesting is nice, the key to being a good conversationalist is not to be interesting but to be interested.
Instead of focusing on yourself and talking about yourself, focus on the other person. Ask them questions. Dig deeper. People love talking about themselves.
In fact, at least one study has shown that when you talk to yourself, it triggers the rewards part of your brain. So, scientifically, it feels good to talk about yourself.
When you get someone to talk about themselves, it makes them feel good, and they reflect that feeling toward you.
6. Giving unsolicited advice
Often, when someone is telling us about a situation that they are dealing with, we can be quick to give advice. The truth is that often they aren’t really looking for advice, they are just looking for someone to listen. People want to be heard, listened to, and to feel understood and validated. When you jump in with your advice, often you keep them from feeling that.
And, for some, it may give the impression that you feel that they can’t figure out the solution on their own. So next time, instead of jumping in with your advice, just listen. Ask questions and let them feel heard and listened to. If they want advice, they will generally ask, and if you are not sure, you can ask them if they would like your thoughts and advice or if they just want you to listen.
Arguing is one of those sad habits that we sometimes do that never actually solves anything. Generally, when we argue, we aren’t about coming to a solution or understanding the other person, or figuring out what the right answer is, we are just focused on proving that we are right! And the other person is trying to argue the same thing, that they are right.
When you argue, even if you prove the other person wrong, that doesn’t make the other person change their mind. Instead, it usually makes them even more firm in their beliefs, and then they walk away with negative feelings toward you. If you lose an argument, you lose. If you win an argument, you lose.
Instead of arguing, listen to one another. Remember what is fact and what is an assumption. Find out each other’s stories and share your viewpoint without blame or judgment. In most situations, both parties have contributed to the situation in some way or another. Share your viewpoints, listen to one another, then try to work together to solve the problem.
We can do better
There you have it, the 7 bad habits that can hurt our relationships and what to do about it. Instead of being negative, be positive. Instead of being indirect, be direct but with tact. Instead of interrupting, listen. Instead of jumping in with our own stories at the wrong time, dig deeper into theirs.
Instead of focusing on yourself, focus on the other person. Instead of giving unsolicited advice, let the other person feel heard. And instead of arguing, listen to one another, share your stories without blame or judgment, and work together on a solution that works for everyone.
What other habits have you seen that can hurt conversation?