Being a good conversationalist is a bit of an art form.
And the trait usually goes hand-in-hand with high emotional intelligence.
By definition, emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, use and manage your emotions in a way that helps you communicate effectively, empathize with others, and diffuse conflict.
Therefore, it makes sense that people who are considered good at conversation are also emotionally intelligent.
I’m sure we’ve all had a discussion with someone where we thought, “Eesh, you probably shouldn’t have said that!”
Even though everyone says the wrong thing on occasion, it’s not something emotionally intelligent people do all that often.
Want to know if you’re emotionally intelligent in your conversations?
Let’s explore the 9 things emotionally intelligent people DON’T do in conversations with others (and what they do instead!)
1) Talking over others
Constantly interrupting people in a conversation and talking over them isn’t a good way to engage with others.
People love to talk, and stopping them from getting a word in edgeways makes them feel unheard and (depending on their relationship to you) unimportant.
When you have emotional intelligence, you can usually put your thoughts aside to ensure others feel heard, too.
Remember, slight interruptions are okay. We all do it sometimes, especially when it looks like someone has finished speaking.
Or if we have no other chance to input into the conversation unless we interrupt or keep going when someone starts talking at the same time as us.
2) Dominating the conversation
Noticing when you’re talking too much and switching the conversation to let others speak is something you do if you have high emotional intelligence.
It’s all too easy to dominate conversations when you have a lot to say.
And there’s often nothing wrong with talking a lot, especially when catching up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while.
But sometimes, talking too much all the time isn’t enjoyable for the other person.
Some key signs you’re dominating the conversation are if you’ve been speaking for most of the time and the other person, well, isn’t.
If they’re asking you questions in between and appear invested in the conversation (i.e., they’re giving an excited “No way!” and “That’s crazy!”), then you’re probably not dominating in a bad way.
But if the other person is quieter than normal and looks/acts disinterested in what you’re saying, they may be feeling a tiny bit shut out…
3) Not reciprocating questions
This is something I always notice when meeting someone new.
If I’m making conversation, I pick up whether I’m doing all the asking, and they’re simply answering, without asking a single question back.
Emotionally intelligent people know that when someone asks them a question, that usually means they want to be asked the same question back.
This isn’t always the case, as sometimes people are simply curious about what’s going on with your life or want to make conversation.
But most of the time, they want to be asked how they’re doing at work, too!
And if that’s not the reason they’re asking, reciprocating people’s questions is simply polite.
It’s a great way to continue a conversation and learn something new about the person you’re speaking with.
Knowing how to make good conversation means knowing how to answer and ask questions. And that trait often goes hand-in-hand with good emotional intelligence.
4) Not asking any questions
Similar to the above point, a conversation should always be a bit of give and take.
Asking all the questions is exhausting for the other person. It can also make them like you less, according to a fascinating new study.
Emotionally intelligent people don’t let others carry the conversation all the time.
Instead, they like to propose new topics as well as give others a chance to speak about things they’re passionate about.
Like asking how their new job is going or if they’re still doing that hobby they started a few months back.
5) Giving closed answers
Have you ever chatted with someone who answered a plain and simple, “Yes” or “No” to any question you ask?
If so, you’ve probably noticed that these conversations aren’t all that fun.
And emotionally intelligent people know that if they want to make good conversation, they need to give more than just the bare minimum.
Here’s a great example of a closed answer vs an open answer.
If someone asks where you’re vacationing this year and you say, “California!” without any other information or follow-up questions back – that’s a closed answer.
But if you say, “I’m going to [insert place] in California for two weeks with my family and I can’t wait! Are you going anywhere nice this year?” – this is an open answer.
And, as you can probably tell, it’s much more open and engaging!
6) Not noticing when others are losing interest
A strong sign that you’re dominating the conversation in a bad way is if the other person becomes quiet or disinterested in what you’re saying.
Sure, this could just be a person who doesn’t want to talk, is shy, or has run out of social battery.
But it could also suggest that you’ve been talking a lot and they feel unheard.
When you’re emotionally intelligent, you’re hypervigilant to the reactions of people around you.
You often spot when someone is becoming quiet and assess whether your behavior or something external is causing it.
A great way to see if your topic of conversation isn’t of interest to the person you’re chatting with is to finish what you’re saying swiftly and change the topic.
Switch the focus onto them and ask an open-ended question about their life or something they’re interested in.
Keep going to see if they warm up to you and engage differently.
If they do, it likely means you were dominating the convo. If they don’t, they may just have other things on their mind.
7) Missing signs that others are uncomfortable
Not everyone likes hearing about your sex life or talking about when they first started their period.
For many, many reasons, some people feel uncomfortable when certain subjects are broached.
While there’s nothing wrong with talking about your dating history or asking people deep and personal questions, emotionally intelligent people are considerate of how others feel.
When someone looks or acts uncomfortable in a conversation, they spot this quickly and make an effort to change the subject.
Or, provided it’s done right, they ask if the subject makes them uncomfortable and if they’d rather talk about something else.
Signs the person may be uncomfortable could be that they stop making eye contact, go quiet, blush, give polite smiles, or try to change the subject.
8) Leaving people out
When you’re in a group, are you the person that’s always trying to include others in the conversation?
Or continuously checking that no one is being left out?
Leaving people out, whether intentionally or otherwise, is something emotionally intelligent people don’t do in group conversations.
Instead, they make an effort to include everyone and make them feel welcome.
Personally, I like it when someone makes eye contact when they’re speaking, maintains eye contact when you start speaking, and asks you a question directly to make you feel more included.
If you do this in your conversations, you’re probably pretty emotionally intelligent!
9) Filling all silences
A little bit of silence goes a long way in a healthy conversation.
When you let a natural pause occur, it gives you both a chance to sit in comfortable silence.
It also gives the other person a chance to ask you questions or share something about them.
Filling every silence with your topics or things about yourself is bad for the conversation, and also bad for you.
Because carrying the conversation all the time can be exhausting. It also makes it harder to spot when it’s time to end the discussion.
Whereas emotionally intelligent people use these pauses to decide when it’s time to draw things to a close and move on.
If you do some of these things, cut yourself some slack.
Just because you’ve had a few awkward conversations in your time, or if you occasionally talk over people, that doesn’t mean you lack emotional intelligence.
But if you want to have more engaging conversations, pay attention to how you act when you’re next in discussion with someone.
If you notice yourself doing any of these things, try to stop yourself – and do the opposite instead!