Most of us have been in a situation where we seem to be having a friendly conversation one second, only for it to grind to a halt the next abruptly. The ensuing awkwardness and discomfort are nothing short of unpleasant, and it’s terrible for positive thinking.
But why does this happen? As it turns out, there are certain things that, when done, tend to bring conversations to a painful stop. You need to be aware of them so you can avoid them. Here are seven things that kill a conversation.
7 Ways You’ll Kill a Conversation
1 – Being Controlling
A typical conversation aims to engage in a fair exchange of words and statements in a neutral setting. Attempting to exert power over such a situation by being controlling will put an immediate end to the conversation.
No one wants to talk to someone who is attempting to control them. The chances are that you hate being controlled, too, so you can’t expect anyone to stick around when they feel you’re doing that to them. Here are some examples of controlling behavior:
If your requests involve the idea that “no” is not an acceptable answer, you’re not asking. You’re making demands. There’s no place in a standard conversation for being demanding, so dial it down.
Telling Others What To Do
When someone presents or mentions a problem to you, you are free to advise them, but you shouldn’t be telling them what to do. If you’d be upset if they don’t listen to you, then you’re telling, not advising. If they haven’t asked you to instruct them, don’t do it!
Dictating What Can And Can’t Be Said
Of course, it’s okay to mention boundaries that you don’t want to be crossed, but doing this in the extreme by deciding which topics can and can’t be discussed to suit your whims is a big no-no.
2 – One-Word Responses
One-word responses mean that your conversation partner will be left hanging. They’ve contributed something, and you’ve decided to respond by adding nothing. Most people won’t want to continue doing all the heavy lifting in a conversation and will opt to end it. Examples of one-word responses include:
One-word responses can also signal boredom, annoyance, or a desire to end a conversation. Naturally, those who hear them may assume you don’t want to continue talking and will take the first step in dropping the speech.
Similarly, you should take care not to ask closed questions. Closed questions involve queries that typically are responded to with one-word answers. These closed questions force a conversation partner to struggle to figure out what else they can contribute to the conversation beyond that typical response, and some may decide it’s not worth the effort.
3 – Being Insincere
Sincerity is all about positive intention, and therefore a lack of it is entirely your fault. If you don’t feel authentic in what you’re saying, that will shine through, and people will pick up on it. Insincerity is a big turn-off and can kill conversations. Here are some examples of insincere behaviors:
Pretending To Know What You Don’t
If you don’t know something, say you aren’t sure or that you don’t know. Tell the truth! For some reason, there’s an idea going around that the act of talking nonsense just to deceive someone is a valuable skill. It isn’t, and people won’t want to talk to you if you keep doing it.
Praise That Isn’t Genuine
It’s fairly obvious when someone’s praise isn’t real. Some may be fooled, but those who aren’t will see that as their cue to end the conversation. Worse still is any praise you do with ulterior motives!
Sure, not everyone will notice when you tell white lies. But once someone does, they’re going to doubt everything you say and will likely not see the point in talking to you any further. No one likes deceptive people, after all. Remember, you can be honest without being tactless, so white lies aren’t needed!
4 – Focusing On Yourself
Conversations are a two-way street. No one wants to be a part of a one-sided conversation. Yes, particular friendship dynamics involve one friend who would rather talk and another who would rather listen. But for the most part, healthy, positive conversations need to include a fair amount of give and take. Here are common behaviors in this vein to avoid:
Aiming To Get Something Out Of The Conversation
Are you only taking part in a conversation because there’s something you want to get out of it? You might think you’re subtle, but people know that you’re doing this, and it’s not a very nice way to behave.
Continually Making Everything About You
Fair exchange is essential in a healthy conversation. If you redirect all topics to something related to you or use someone else’s talking points to jump off of into your tales and experiences, others aren’t going to want to talk to you as you come off self-centered.
Speaking More Than You Listen
We have two ears and one mouth, so we should be doing twice as much listening as talking. So really, truly listen to what the other person is saying and understand their point of view. Feel free to ask questions to understand it further. Then, once you’ve genuinely listened thoroughly, you can speak about your opinion.
5 – Drawing Everything Out
Good conversations start and end naturally. Prolonging a conversation through force can, ironically, cause it to shorten instead. Here are some ways that drawing everything out kills a conversation:
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to share everything about a subject, including tiny details, but unless you’re speaking to people with a passion for that subject, there’s a good chance they’ll get bored. Don’t talk for ages about something small – keep it short, sweet, and attention-worthy!
Beating around the bush due to nervousness or anxiety is understandable, but most people don’t want to have to wait for ages to get to crucial information. Unless you want the conversation to end, keep your disclaimers very brief and get to the point.
Rambling is fun and good among certain groups, but there will be people whose conversations are a little more clear, with an obvious goal or topic to discuss. Going off-topic and prattling about for minutes and minutes can kill a conversation quickly.
Providing Too Much Information
Most people don’t want to hear too much about your personal, romantic, familial, or medical life – that falls under TMI, or too much information. Oversharing can make things awkward, and it’s a reason many conversations die.
6 – Acting Like An Expert Undeservedly
No one likes a pretentious person. To act as an expert in situations where that is not warranted or on subjects that you are far from an expert about is a guaranteed way to kill a conversation. Here are some ways you may be doing that:
Armchair psychology isn’t real psychology. No matter what you think you know about human nature and behavior, you aren’t qualified to analyze someone. People don’t like being treated like case studies and will likely shut down a conversation if you make them feel like one.
Among peers in your field, jargon is fine. But among others, simplifying your language makes the information accessible to them. If you insist on using technical terms, you’re alienating your conversation partners and acting high-and-mighty.
Unless someone asks for your judgment, you are in no place to make assumptions and draw conclusions based on the limited scope that a conversation and some observation gives you. You don’t know the reality of anyone else’s situation, so don’t judge them!
There’s nothing wrong with a verbose vocabulary, and there are many people who enjoy communicating with more mindful word choices. But if everything you say is an obscure word that sounds like you looked it up on a Thesaurus, you’re just pretentious. Language is designed as a tool for communication, and using ridiculous words defeats that purpose.
It’s nice to lift yourself up, and you don’t want to seem like you’re showing off. Humblebragging is a very common tactic to find balance but is very ineffective. If you must share your accomplishments or talk yourself up to other people, be transparent in what you’re doing – express your pride and positive thinking happily; don’t try to mask it with false humility that just sounds arrogant.
7 – Using Unhelpful Clichés Or Advice
It can be tough to think of what to do or say when someone comes to you with a problem. Responding to these things, the wrong way can be an immediate conversation killer.
The use of clichés and so-called wise sayings is quite common when someone is going through a rough spot. But they can come off as patronizing or belittling to people with real and complex problems. Examples of clichés are:
- It’ll all be for the best.
- Things happen for a reason.
- Everything will be just fine.
- Things will get better.
- The right opportunity will come soon!
While they sound nice and kind, these statements are fillers. They don’t really mean anything, and for people who are going through a tough time, they can be even less meaningful because they’re superficial. Of course, we know that these words are often said with the best intentions – just regulate your use of clichés!
You may also kill a conversation by offering unhelpful advice, especially when not asked for it. A lot of people just want to vent to others when they talk about their problems. Don’t offer unsolicited criticism or advice!
Sometimes, the best option is to be honest. Instead of offering advice and half-baked popular phrases, say:
- I really don’t know what to say, but I’m here to listen.
- That sounds like a difficult situation. Is there any way I can help?
- Would you like suggestions from me, or would you prefer I just support you?
Final Thoughts On Avoiding the Things That Kill A Conversation
Most people don’t directly intend to kill a conversation, and chances are, you don’t, either. Avoid doing these seven things, and you won’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation like that one again!