9 Conversation Mistakes That May Affect People's Perception Of You
Everyone wants to make their best impression during a conversation, but sometimes it's hard to pay attention to how you're communicating when you're so caught up in a topic. If you want to impress others and deliver your thoughts effectively, you'll want to pay attention to some conversations mistakes to avoid — especially if you want to stick out in people's minds for all the right reasons. Of course, you should never have to compromise who you are or say something you don't mean just to get someone to think highly of you, but you also may want to refrain from rubbing someone the wrong way or coming off negatively unintentionally.
Not every first-time interaction will go the way you had hoped, networking expert and career coach Deena Baikowitz tells Bustle. "That’s normal, and OK. Building meaningful relationships isn’t easy. Instead of treating every encounter as a popularity contest, consider every conversation as a chance to learn something new, to improve your skills, and to find your squad."
What you say has meaning and impact, but so does how you say it, and if you know how to have a pleasant, and authentic conversation, people will ultimately become drawn to you. Here are nine conversation mistakes experts say to stay away from if you want to put your best foot forward.
1. Speaking At Someone Instead Of With Them
Stay away from going on and on without letting the other person speak, even if you are passionate about a topic. "This communicates to others that they are not important," communication expert Constance Dunn M.A. tells Bustle. "If you feel you may be guilty of this, try limit your speaking to increments of one to two minutes. To engage the other person, get in the habit of asking: 'What do you think?'" To make a great first impression, keep the other person engaged, and genuinely listen when you ask them their opinion.
2. Not Giving Eye Contact — Or Giving Too Much
"When speaking with a friend or intimate, eye contact is important, and it usually comes naturally," says Dunn. "However, sometimes when seeking to establish connection with a new person, it can be overdone, resulting in a stare that can be invasive or uncomfortable." To strike that perfect balance, Dunn suggests rotating your gaze instead of locking into both eyes at once. Look at one eye, then the other.
3. Asking About Someone's Personal Life Too Soon
Part of getting to know someone is learning details about them, but you should always respect their boundaries about what they feel comfortable sharing. "People are usually happy to talk about themselves and will be responsive to those who are interested in them," says Dunn. "However, don’t let your inquiries turn into a grilling, particularly if your table mates were recent strangers to you. As a general rule, too-personal questions are those related to a person’s age, income, employment and romantic life." If the other person speaks on the topic first, that's OK, but you should always let them be the one to bring it up.
You might think you can have an in-depth conversation while scrolling through Instagram, but not only does that send the message that you're not giving someone your full attention, but it also takes away from the quality of your conversation. "The human brain can't focus on more than one task, and the research is quite clear on our attempts to multitask," Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter, tells Bustle. "Don't answer an email while you're on a call or have the TV playing while your [conversation] partner is talking to you. Do one thing at a time. If you're having a conversation, focus only on that."
5. Cutting Someone Off Mid-Sentence
It's tempting to interrupt someone to get your point in if you're eager, but always listen to the end of someone's sentence. "More often than not, we hear the first few seconds of what someone says, and then we think of what we want to say in response," says Headlee. "We end up stopping listening while we wait for them to stop talking, so we can talk again. Instead, listen all the way to the end of their sentence. Then, process what you've heard and think of a response."
6. Lecturing Rather Than Conversing
Try not to look at a conversation as a debate or a place to lecture someone. "Don't try to change people's minds or show them why their opinions are wrong," says Headlee. "Instead, enter the conversation prepared to learn from them. Learn about their perspective, their experience, and their thought processes."
7. Pretending To Know Something You Don't
Sharing an interest with someone seems like a great way to connect, but if the interest isn't real, don't feign enthusiasm. "People ask us how a restaurant is or if a movie is good, and we often give our opinions without actually having any direct experience," says Headlee. "We also give our opinions on complicated topics like medical issues and pet care and childcare, without really knowing what we're talking about. If you don't know, then just say you don't know." There's nothing wrong with not knowing too much on certain topics, but if you find yourself discussing something outside your interests, remain authentic and shift the conversation to a true shared interest.
8. Using Lofty Vocabulary
Although there's nothing wrong with having an advanced vocabulary (in fact, it's awesome), it's good to be aware of what words you use, as not everyone has the same level of knowledge about the subject at hand. "It is easy to forget that your vocabulary can be anywhere from one to three levels above the person with whom you are speaking," communication expert Leslie Shore tells Bustle. "The moment the listener gets stuck on a word they don’t understand, they have stopped listening in order to figure out what the word means. This will stop the conversation."
9. Crossing Your Arms
In addition to the words you are using, your body language matters as well. "You create confusion in the other person’s mind if your body language is at odds with what you are saying," says Shore. "If you say, 'I believe you,' and your body language is showing crossed arms and rolling of the eyes, the listener will believe the body language. Say only what your body language can support, or say nothing at all. Otherwise, the other person in the conversation will question the sincerity of your words." Be mindful of how you are positioning yourself, and keep open body language to show you are engaged and listening. This could mean leaning forward slightly, keeping your arms at your side, or giving the occasional nod.
Becoming completely comfortable in conversation takes practice, but by being mindful of these mistakes, there's a good chance you will have better, more meaningful interactions with others.