12 Conversation Killers and Simple Ways to Improve Them

No one is going to tell you “hey, you’re ruining the conversation, could you stop?” So, it’s important to do some self-reflection here.

This is going to help you have more positive conversations that leave you and your friends or colleagues feeling more energized and happy to talk with you. 

Thinking vs Listening

People really want to be heard, so you can be a better conversation partner if you put more energy into understanding and listening and showing your interest. People will fall in love with you and you’ll build closer relationships with people if you are genuinely showing your interest and actively listening.

To learn more about active listening, be sure to take a look at this lesson next.

Pretending you understand when you don’t

It’s totally normal and ok to not catch 100% of a conversation. 

If you’re not sure what someone means, just ask! 

Small talk all the time

Small talk is a good way to start a conversation, but after a few minutes people expect more depth, or to move on. 

Have some “deep conversation” questions to bring the conversation to the next level. Some that I mention in my audio ebook The English Fluency Formula are “what are you working on?” “what are you passionate about?”

When you can’t respond fast enough

This is a real challenge for us second-language speakers sometimes. But, unfortunately many conversations die because we just can’t jump in fast enough.

Use fillers and time-buying phrases to claim a stake in the conversation while you think about what you want to say.

One-sided conversation

Definitely it’s good to share your life and let people into your world, but if you notice the other person’s eyes glazing over, and they stop responding to verbal cues to chime into the conversation, you’ve just killed it. If you respond to someone else’s questions but don’t ask about the other person, it’s a one-sided conversation. 

Instead, have some questions ready to go to invite the other person to talk and show that you’re interested in them. 

Huge leaps

Changing the conversation too drastically to something else, or making it about yourself when the other person was expressing something about themselves.

Learn to gently guide the conversation from one topic to another related topic using transitions and questions.

Complaining 

It’s ok to mention if you are not happy about something, but make sure you are not always complaining.

Instead of complaining about something that you don’t like, could you find something positive to talk about instead?

Being critical instead of curious about someone else’s ideas

If someone is sharing their idea or opinion with you, it might feel natural to express your opinion in response. If it’s a negative response, this can really kill the conversation and make the other person feel bad. 

Instead, could you become curious and ask more questions about the idea or opinion? 

Joking all the time

There’s a time and a place to be serious, and some conversations are not the right time for joking around.

On serious topics, fight the urge to joke. Sometimes silence is better than saying something insensitive or joking.

One-upping

Instead of being happy for someone else’s achievements, you feel the need to show them up, or share one of your “better” achievements. 

If someone shares their achievements, congratulate them. Ask them questions. Let them enjoy the spotlight for a minute! 

Over-sharing

Do not talk about your mental illness, your stomach problems, or any other bodily issues unless the person is your doctor, family member or close friend. 

If you feel the impulse to share something very personal, try keeping it general and non-descript. You could also shift the conversation back to the other person by asking a question.

Religion and Politics

These topics are important to many people, but remember that they are polarizing and no one wants to be “converted” or get in a fight with someone they just met.

If you feel the urge to talk about religion or politics, approach it very lightly and avoid proselytizing or debating. For example, “Is it ok if I ask about…?”

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