Keeping the Conversation Going

Conversation Killers and How to Avoid Them

Your relationships are formed through conversations stacked end to end. So it pays to get rid of the mechanical things that cripple them. For starters, consider these four:

Pet Words and Phrases 

Some people use favorite words out of habit—regardless of whether they’re appropriate in the context:  Awesome. Absolutely. Sounds good. Right on. Right. Fabulous. Fantastic. Cool. Wow. Darling. Honey. Lousy.

Diego:  We’re planning to go to a movie tonight.

Kim:  Awesome!

Diego:  We may grab a bite to eat before we leave.

Kim: Fantastic!

Diego:  I’ll call you afterward to see what your plans are for the weekend.

Kim:  Cool.  Sounds good.

Diego:  Will 9:00 be okay to call?

Kim:  Absolutely! 

Where does Kim go for an encore when her exuberant pet phrases run out in this conversation? If such words or phrases start to roll off your tongue or almost key themselves onto the computer screen, stop them. Become aware. Appoint a family member or colleague to call you out on the habit by signaling you every time you use the “pet” word or phrase. Eventually, you will break the habit.

Complex Words Used Incorrectly

A large vocabulary has merit. If you’re reading and the author uses an unfamiliar word, you don’t have to look it up to understand the term. As an author or speaker yourself, sometimes you want to convey a meaning that calls for a precise but uncommon word. Be glad that you have the precise word at your command.

But using a complex, unfamiliar word for a simple idea—and using it incorrectly—damages you and stalls a conversation. First, others in the conversation think, “Was that misused on purpose for a laugh?” “Or did they know they misused that word?” “Should I correct them or let it pass?”  “Obviously, something’s garbled here? Did I miss the entire message?”  “Are they trying to impress me? Why?”

Any or all of these thoughts, of course, derail the intended communication.

Incessant Chatter

Non-stop talking about insignificant details buries significant information you have to contribute to a conversation. Recently, I heard a colleague make this remark about a peer in his office: “Katy is bright. Typically, she brings up good points. She contributes something on almost all the topics that Daniel brings up. But she always just goes on and on and on with so many details. By the time she finishes, we’ve forgotten what her point was.”

Too Much Personal Information

Unless your listeners are very close friends or family members, people do not want to know about your surgeries, your ex-spouse’s infidelities, or your financial woes. Baring your soul to clients, workplace peers, or conference buddies may relieve your stress momentarily. But long-term, it may make you the victim of gossip, career upheaval, or even lawsuits. At the least, you’ll be cause for boredom.

Likewise, other people resist your asking personal information. For the most part, they do not want to give you the details of their medical diagnosis, their performance appraisal, or anything to do with their finances. Asking for such personal information puts you on their “Do not trust this dunderhead” list.

Communication is the cement that binds people together. Don’t let these blunders wreak havoc with your relationships.

Need to improve your communication skills? Download a FREE chapter of What More Can I Say? Why Communication Fails and What to Do About It by Dianna Booher (Penguin Random House/Prentice Hall)

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