13 Conversational Mistakes You May Be Making That Turn Others Off

Two men talking at work

Conversations are a normal part of our everyday lives. When you bump into someone you know at the store, you talk with them. When you’re out on a date, you have an extended conversation with the other person.

Despite the number of conversations we have in a given day, we all make mistakes during those conversations. Most of the time, we don’t even know we’re screwing up. Luckily, this list will help you see the conversational mistakes you’re probably making so you can start fixing them.

Do you have a hard time striking up conversations with your date? We’ve also got suggestions that help guys talk to women.

1. Multitasking or Being Distracted

When you’re conversing with someone, you should focus on the conversation. Whatever is happening on Facebook and Instagram can wait. Except for emergencies, that text message you just got can wait. You’ll find your conversations are far more successful if you give the other party your undivided attention. Not only will you learn more about them, but they’ll notice that you’re paying attention.

2. Not Letting the Other Party Speak

When you’re in a conversation with one person or with a group, you’re going to want to make your points. Whether you’re debating, sharing stories, or talking about the latest happenings, you will want to make your points. And that’s fine, but you need to know when to stop talking and let the other people speak. No one likes a person who completely dominates a conversation, so make sure to spend some time with your mouth closed and your ears open.

Conversational Mistakes Talking Too Much
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3. Using the Wrong Amount of Eye Contact

Eye contact is a critical part of conversing. But you shouldn’t constantly stare at the person you’re talking to. You need to find a middle ground between looking into the person’s eyes and looking away. An interesting tip is to look from one conversation partner’s eyes and then the other. This creates a more natural flow but keeps you focused on the other person. Ensure your eyes aren’t darting around the room or looking over their shoulder.

4. Pretending to Know Something You Don’t

When you’re conversing, you want the other person to think you’re smart. But that doesn’t mean you should pretend to know things you don’t. This can lead to some awkward interactions. They may want to keep discussing that topic, making you have to pretend even more. It’s better to say you don’t know and let them explain. Most people enjoy talking about something they know about, and they’ll probably enjoy teaching you something new.

5. Using Advanced Vocabulary

If you don’t know a person very well and start speaking with advanced vocabulary, you won’t impress them. Instead, you’re either going to confuse them and make them feel less than you, or they will think you’re pretentious and trying to act more intelligent than you are. Instead, use a conversational vocabulary that’ll be comfortable for everyone. Once you know the people better, feel free to read the room and speak with whatever level makes sense, but in the beginning, keep it simple.

Conversational Mistakes Vocabulary
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6. Negative Body Language

Sometimes, we subconsciously send signals that tell the person we’re speaking with that we don’t want to be there. Crossing your arms is one of the quickest ways to tell your conversation partner that you want out, even if you don’t. You want to use open, positive body language to let the other party know that you’re happy to be there and that you’re enjoying the conversation. Other forms of negative body language to avoid include lack of eye contact, looking around, getting too into personal space, and slouching.

7. Not Listening

When you’re engaged in a conversation, you’ll come up with things you want to say. That is the whole point of conversing, after all! But what you need to avoid is just waiting for the other party to finish so you can say what you want to say. When you do this, you end up not listening to what they’re saying. A conversation should have some give and take, which means when it’s not your turn to speak, you should listen and absorb what they have to say.

8. Asking Too Many Questions

People love talking about themselves and sharing pieces of their personal lives. However, you can reach a point where the questions you ask make the conversation uncomfortable for the other person.

Conversational Mistakes Questions
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For example, if someone is sharing a story and you keep interrupting to ask questions about specific details, the person may grow frustrated because you are detracting from the story. Similarly, if you’re making small talk with an acquaintance but start asking them personal questions, they may feel uncomfortable and not wish to answer.

Regardless of the specifics, it’s best to keep questions to a minimum and try to read the other person’s body language before asking more.

9. Arguing With Others

No one likes it when people pick fights or argue in the middle of a social gathering. This is exactly why people recommend avoiding topics like politics or religion in group settings, because it can start arguments.

If someone says something that offends you or you disagree with, it’s better to simply walk away or change the subject than start an argument. You can even explain that you’d rather not argue, and you’d prefer to talk about something different. Most people will understand.

10. Speaking Too Quickly

People need time to process what others say. If you speak too quickly, people may not understand you or get lost in the conversation. If you always speak that way, some may even avoid talking to you.

Conversational Mistakes Too Quickly
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11. Invalidating a Person’s Feelings

Most of us are guilty of this and don’t even realize it, but it really can turn others off of sharing with us. Anytime we use words like “but,” “shouldn’t,” or “stop,” we invalidate their feelings. You basically dismiss their words and tell them what they should do instead.

When you invalidate someone’s feelings, you essentially tell them that they’re “wrong” and they shouldn’t feel the way they do about a situation. This hurts the other person’s self-esteem, not to mention it’s just not friendly behavior.

12. Making Offensive Jokes

There are times when dark or questionable humor makes people laugh. However, jokes that insult people based on their ethnicity, gender, or culture are rarely funny. You should avoid crude and offensive jokes at all costs, especially when around people you don’t know well. Also, offensive jokes are just one of many things you shouldn’t do as part of proper workplace etiquette.

13. Bragging About Yourself

Sometimes it is fun to share achievements and exciting news with others. However, there’s a fine line between sharing good news and talking about yourself in a way that makes others feel less important.

When you brag about yourself, it can make others feel inferior. They may question their worth or wonder what they’re doing wrong in life. Furthermore, it can strain your relationships as others grow frustrated and tired of feeling inadequate when compared to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best ways to start a conversation?

There are many ways to start a conversation, depending on your level of comfort with the other person. If you don’t know them well, a simple “hello” and introduction may be best, whereas, with a friend, you may ask them to share something new in their life. Topics like weather or sports are always great ice breakers, too.

What are the most common topics to avoid when conversing with others?

Although this can vary based on your social setting, most experts recommend avoiding conversations about these topics: religion, politics, personal finance, gossip, and death.

What can I do if I have offended someone during a conversation?

If you know you have offended someone, the best thing you can do is apologize. Make sure your apology is genuine, and don’t overdo it. If the person doesn’t forgive you, you may just need to move on.

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Megan Glosson

Megan Glosson is a passionate writer based in Nashville, TN. She enjoys writing about topics related to health, wellness, and everyday life, especially when the topic has a personal connection to her own life. Megan is currently published on over a dozen websites, including YourTango, Feel & Thrive, Moms.com, and The Mighty. Megan also serves as a content editor for Unwritten, a digital publication focused on millennial lifestyles.