Some people are great at making conversation, and as a result, they find it easier to connect with others.
Conversation is a bridge that unites us and brings us closer to those around us.
But if we’re not careful, it can also become a barrier.
We may unintentionally say the wrong thing and rub people up the wrong way. And before you know it, someone has gotten you all wrong.
That’s why if we want to be better conversationalists, we should say goodbye to these 9 phrases.
1) “I think you’ll find…”
This is just another way of saying to someone “Shut up. You’re wrong.”
And not particularly in a delicate way.
It’s sort of condescending and can feel incredibly dismissive when you are on the receiving end.
You present yourself as a bit of a know-it-all and shoot others down in the process.
That’s not to say people can’t ever be gently encouraged to see things a different way. But good conversationalists are more delicate in their approach.
They’re more likely to confront differing opinions, ideas, or beliefs with tact. They also encourage others to share their reasoning behind things.
So they may say something like:
- “Have you ever considered…?”
- “But what do you think about…?”
- “That’s an interesting take, tell me more…”
We cannot be better conversationalists until we are willing to let go of our strong desire to always be right.
2) “As I said before…”
We get it. You’ve had to repeat yourself. Thanks for making us feel stupid about it.
We all forget things or need another little reminder from time to time.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the other person wasn’t listening to a word you said.
Pointing out that you’re telling them something for the second time can come across as impatient.
It also has an air of superiority about it.
Consider whether you really need to highlight this, or if it’s your ego that is kicking in.
3) “Maybe I’m being stupid but…”
Self-deprecation in even very subtle ways is an easy conversational habit to fall into.
Before you know it, you’ve dismissed your credibility.
When we start our sentences by already diminishing what we have to say we can even lose other people’s respect.
Rather than confidently asking questions without fear, or freely sharing our ideas and thoughts, we tentatively put them out there.
It’s the same with phrases like:
“I’ve probably gotten this wrong…” or “Maybe I’m mistaken but…”
Stop stripping away at your abilities and insights. You are entitled to your own opinions.
Although, not in all circumstances, as we’ll see next…
4) “Well, if you ask me…”
The important question here is:
Did they ask you?
Because unsolicited advice is rampant. And it can be way more damaging to relationships that we appreciate at the time.
We often have the best intentions. We want to fix things for someone or show our support.
But on many occasions, people aren’t looking to have you swoop in with your two cents on the matter.
What they really need is someone who will listen without judgment.
They are looking to feel seen and heard —which allows any emotions that may be coming up for them to be validated.
Let’s say a friend is having relationship problems. And you jump in and say something like:
“Well if you ask me, he doesn’t deserve you.”
Rather than make her feel better, your opinion may only make her feel worse.
If we want to be better conversationalists, we have to know when to speak, and when to keep our opinions to ourselves.
5) “No offense, but…”
As soon as someone utters this expression you can guarantee one thing:
What they’re about to say is either:
- Downright mean
…Sometimes, all of the above.
This disclaimer does not cushion the blow whatsoever, or absolve you of any cruelty your words may contain.
In fact, it sort of makes it worse, as you are clearly fully aware that you may be about to put your foot in your mouth.
If you have to roll out a “no offense, but” before you speak, think long and hard about whether you should be saying it in the first place.
Because the chances are, the answer is no.
It may be obvious to you.
But you should never assume or imply that your opinion or point is a given.
Doing so not only shoots down the other person’s ideas or feelings on a topic, but you’re also doing yourself a disservice too.
Good conversationalists remain open.
They are curious to learn new perspectives, even if they don’t always agree.
They may vehemently believe something, but they won’t be so presumptuous as to assume it’s the only correct way of looking at things.
And words like “obviously”, “clearly”, and “evidently” unwittingly do just that.
7) “Can I just stop you there…”
We may not always use this phrase before diving in and interrupting. We could just cut someone off mid-flow with whatever we have to say.
I had a very nasty habit of doing this, and I’ve had to work hard to try to curb it.
Because I see how it looks arrogant and self-centered. You are not creating space for the other person to contribute.
But I also know that it can be driven on occasion by innocent enthusiasm. You can get carried away in wanting to contribute, and jump the gun.
But either way, not letting someone continue is disrespectful.
We must allow people to fully finish their train of thought, and leave sufficient pauses in conversation.
That way, everyone can be sure their voice is being heard.
8) “The same thing happened to me, but it was ten times worse”
Okay, you might not be so oblivious to phrase it exactly like that, but I think you get the idea.
We’re talking about trying to trump someone else’s experiences.
If they’ve had a bad day, you’ve had a worse one.
Rather than ask them to share the details, or unburden their troubles, you turn things around and make it about you.
“Don’t even get me started, you wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had”.
When someone tries to connect with you and share their feelings or certain events, be mindful of how you respond.
Whilst empathy makes for being a better conversationalist, now might not be the time to offer up your own experiences.
9) “Try to look on the bright side”
We can actually file plenty of phrases under this same category:
“Everything happens for a reason”
“Maybe it’s for the best”
“It could be worse”
There are countless cliches we pull out in an attempt to soothe.
But that’s not always the effect they have.
In fact, our attempts at optimism and positivity can be quite toxic.
People usually need support, not platitudes. So it’s far better to encourage them to share or seek help.
We should all try to swap these sorts of phrases with something more validating and encouraging.
“I’m here for you if you want to talk about it?”
“I feel for you. Is there anything I can do?”
“What do you need from me right now?”
It’s good to have an optimistic outlook. But when people are in pain, they want you to acknowledge that. And telling them to “cheer up” is simply dismissive rather than helpful.
Good conversationalists are more self-aware
If there’s one thing our list of phrases to avoid has shown us:
Making conversation can be a minefield.
It’s easy to unintentionally say things that may come across the wrong way.
This particularly happens whenever we speak without thinking or our egos take over.
One of the gifts that great conversationalists have is self-awareness.
They are mindful of themselves and others.
And that helps them to stay sensitive, considerate, and conscious in the conversations they engage in.