We all want to have good relationships with people. We want people to like us and to enjoy talking with us.
Unfortunately, we sometimes have conversation habits that actually make people want to do the opposite.
Check the list below and see if you are doing any of the following, maybe even without realizing it:
Table of Contents
Interrupting others while they are talking
This has to be one of the cardinal sins of conversations – interrupting. Sadly, though, it happens so often.
How many times have you started a story, and someone jumped in before you were finished to tell a similar experience? It’s very deflating, isn’t it?
Or maybe you are trying to make a point and someone starts talking over you with their point – or even a different topic!
That hurts. It’s no fun. We don’t like people doing that to us.
If you want to be a better conversationalist, don’t interrupt. Try not to even think about what you want to say while they are talking: just focus on what THEY are trying to say, and your conversation abilities will increase greatly just because of that.
Jumping into conversations as quickly as possible
I remember standing in groups of people who were conversating and giving up on trying to add anything to the conversation. Everyone (maybe even me) was so focused on telling their story or point, as soon as someone was finished, or even a little before, they would jump in with what they wanted to say. They wouldn’t even allow a pause.
I just gave up. I didn’t want to try to compete with people, and I knew no one was interested in any input of mine because they were so intent on being the next to talk.
Don’t be like that. Take time to listen to people. Implement the 2-second rule: wait 2 seconds after someone talks before talking. This makes sure they are finished talking as well shows that you were listening and are thinking about what they are saying.
And if people are jumping in over each other to talk – don’t try to compete – just try to be the best listener you can be. People will notice.
Giving Advice and Judgement
For us guys especially, it’s easy for us to want to jump in and give advice and tell someone what we think they should do. Unfortunately, that often is not what people are looking for. More often than not, people are just looking for someone to listen to.
Instead of jumping in with advice, ask questions. Dig deeper. Say “Tell me more”. Learn more about how they are feeling. In doing so, you may even help them figure out the solution on their own.
If they want advice, they will ask you. Or if you aren’t sure, just ask them: “Do you want me to just listen or would you like my input?”
And with judgments – people aren’t sharing with you so that you can point out what they did wrong or should have done better. There may be a place and time and method for that (such as when they ask), but generally, they just want you to listen.
Trumping their stories
Often when someone is telling us a story, maybe even something personal, it’s easy to remember a similar story in our lives. So what do we do? We tell them our story.
However, telling a similar story isn’t being empathic – it’s taking the focus off of them and putting it on you.
If you want to show empathy and be a good listener and conversationalist, instead of telling your story, ask them more about theirs. Dig deeper. Probe. Ask them to expound on it. That will make them feel more listened to, and, in return, it will make you more liked.
Of course, you should share and tell your own stories at times, but don’t rush it. Focus on them before adding your own.
Showing negative body language
Sometimes we show ourselves to be bad listeners and conversationalists just by the way we hold our bodies.
To show yourself listening, look at the person in the eyes. You can move from one eye to the next if it feels weird. Avoid looking at your phone or other people or other conversations – this shows a lack of interest and can make the other person feel unimportant and not listened to.
Face fully at the person. If you are angled away from them with your feet angled to walk away, that gives the impression you want to leave the conversation.
Lean forward. Nod occasionally.
But to really show that you are interested in what a person has to say is to truly BE interested in what they have to say. If you do that, more than likely the body language will follow. If you try to fake it by doing the “right” moves, that will show as well.
Taking things personally or being defensive
Especially with people that we have a close relationship with, it can often be easy to take what they say personally and to get defensive. Unfortunately, that’s counterproductive.
When we start defending ourselves, we normally don’t actually hear what the other person is trying to say, we often attack the other person instead of the matter at hand, and it usually only makes the matter worse.
Instead, try not to get defensive (I know, easier said than done). Hold your tongue. Just listen to what the person is trying to say and why they are saying it. Sometimes it is easy to assume that the other person’s motives are negative. If you think it may come from a negative angle or they are implying something about you – ask.
And if you need to get away before getting defensive, tell them that you need time to think about it and calm down before continuing the conversation.
If you want a good relationship with that person, attacking the person or giving a comeback will not help – ever. Listening to them and acknowledging their viewpoint is not the same as agreeing with it. You may disagree with their assessment. If you disagree and explain your perspective to them without attacking or a comeback, you will have a much greater chance of better understanding and of keeping a good relationship between you both.
Being Aware is the First Step
Did you see yourself in any of those habits? That’s okay! The first step in improving is to be aware of it. Next time you are in a conversation, and you catch yourself doing any of these, just stop. The more you practice, the better you will get.
Have you noticed any other listening habits that can hurt relationships?