Conversation Improvement: 5 Social Mistakes Hurting Your Interactions
Hello my dear and welcome back to our corner of the Internet!
Today I wanted to carry on with our new Friday series by discussing 6 different social mistakes you could be making that might be hurting your conversations and interactions.
Of course, these are all mistakes as defined by ME. There is not some rulebook out there in the Western world that outlines the following, and this is more up to my personal preferences than any hard or fast rule. Take everything I write with a grain of salt!
What do I mean by inappropriate teasing? Do you mean inappropriate sexual innuendo with a coworker? Sexual harassment? What do I mean?
Well... MANY social actions can be inappropriate without being sexual or even qualifying as harassment. Something being inappropriate merely means it is out of place, does not fit the situation, or is just wrong.
Teasing should always be kept light hearted, far from the truth, and only used sparingly in INTIMATE relationships. I stress the word intimate. We must know the level of intimacy we have with a person before we try to tease them. Teasing prematurely in a relationship can cause the "teased" party to feel uncomfortable. This is why women feel uncomfortable when a salesman teases while trying to score a sale: there is no intimacy! It is also why teasing is a fast way to end an already contentious or distanced relationship: again, a lack of true intimacy does not blend well with teasing.
Growing up, I was very sensitive to teasing as it seemed to be a method by which people could veil their distaste or frustrations for me. Teasing was not a fun or intimate way to draw closer to others. Rather, it felt like thinly veiled passive aggression, or an uncomfortable way for strangers to establish intimacy prematurely.
Now that I am older, I feel much the same regarding the topic. I know many women (and men!) who tease their partner more than they encourage them. Sure, it might be part of your relationships or "personality" but I encourage you to expand your communication by incoroporating a level of sincerity in your communication. ANd avoid, above all, the bad habit of hiding your true feelings or criticisms of a person behind teasing. Learn to grow up and be honest and direct with your needs and feelings.
Finally, I encourage you to look at your teasing in your life. Are you overly harsh? Do you use it as a way to express frustrations? Do you tease more than you encourage or compliment?
Teasing can be incredibly painful to sensitive people or people who do not enjoy sarcasm, so it's important to get to know a person FIRST, and then apply the appropriate social strategy. This will help you make way more friends and endear yourself to a wide variety of people.
Sarcasm as a Default
Ah sarcasm. The beloved communication method of many modern people, women and men alike. Yet, while it is a widely celebrated and hotly sought after trait amongst modern people, I could not roll my eyes MORE at it. I find sarcasm to be the most obnoxious, lazy, and irritating method of communication in the world.
Used sparingly, it is tolerable, but used in everyday conversation or in excess, it is enough to cause people to give you a wide berth. There are times, I will concede, when sarcasm is a fun and witty way to communicate. But some people just have no idea when to pull it out and when to put it away!
The things I've noticed about sarcastic people is that they are 1. Extremely proud of their sarcasm, and 2. Hiding a lot of their personality behind sarcasm.
To me, sarcasm is a way of breaking down relationships and putting people on edge. I have always valued authenticity, positivity, excitement, and a general appreciation for others and for life. This is not the common feeling you get around sarcastic people, who always seem to have a hidden meaning behind their words, or a general distaste for the world. It's in one word: unappealing.
So if you feel that you communicate mostly in sarcasm, I encourage you to pay close attention to the relationships you have around you. It might be important to learn the times and the people to use the most sarcasm with, and the times to maybe leave it on the back shelf. Try to be a little more authentic, direct, and positive in your interactions. Notice when you are hiding behind sarcastic comments and reactions in an effort to conceal your true personality or feelings. People want to get to know you! There is no need to be so defensive and afraid. Let your heart shine and cut back on the sarcasm.
Long Boring Irrelevant Stories
Alright, this one might be painful to hear, but sometimes our social lives and relationships can suffer if we are tellers of long, boring, and irrelevant stories.
Before we unpack this, I need to stress that in order to fit this criteria, the story must be all three components: long, boring, AND irrelevant. You can tell long and boring relevant stories to your listener, as well as long, irrelevant, yet interesting, or even boring, irrelevant, yet short stories.
So what qualifies as a LBI story? Well, certainly not things like your life story, or something that might seem boring to you but are actually really important stories. No.
An example of an LBI would be telling someone you just met the saga of your long wait in line at the post office last Tuesday, or keeping your friend another hour at coffee to relay the intricate and minute details of a friend of a friend's dog's house-training. Unless the dog has an extremely interesting or pertinent trait that is absolutely applicable to your listener's life, it might be high time to let go of that story.
Long boring stories have no real climax, takeaway, or point. There is not a point in which the story becomes relevant or interesting to the listener, but is rather told out of a misguided excitement on behalf of the teller. Try to tell stories and anecdotes that directly apply to the subject of conversation, that have a climax, or that apply to the listener. Then, skip the post office story altogether.
Again, I'm telling you this because I don't know you personally and it might be easier to hear coming from me: long boring stories might harm your chances at making positive friendships. People might not want to be around you or make plans with you because they fear they will be treated to a host of long boring and irrelevant stories.
Some people truly feel that connection is connection, regardless of what they are saying to the other person, and I SLIGHTLY agree. However, it's important to measure the quality of our conversations as well. Our conversations won't always be the most interesting or the most pertinent to life, but there are many ways in which we can ensure a happy exchange for both parties.
I encourage you to really tune into your listener and look for cues and signs that they are even interested in your story. Don't ask reassurance questions, like "am I boring you?" because they will say no! Be a big girl and look at their reaction to see for yourself. Wrap up your boring story and if they ask for more details, they WERE interested, and if they don't, it's okay to move forward.
Having to Be "Deep" 24/7
How many times have you heard someone spout off: "I hate small talk! I only like to dig deep." And then proceed to tell you something their dog did that day that was really cute? Well... that's small talk! And it's delightful!
Small talk is not just about the weather: it's anything in life that falls on the lighter side of things and allows conversationalists to ease into the pool of chatting. Not many popular people start off their conversations saying "I fear intimacy because my father left me!" No. That's too intense and fast out of the gate. That's not how you build relationships.
I feel that people who 'hate small talk' really mean that they hate when a relationship never progresses PAST small talk. And honestly, I agree! But for most of us, the way we get to intimacy is through small talk that eventually grows into something deeper.
It's okay to have certain people and relationships that you keep for small talk. Small talk is lovely and it helps with our human connection. You probably like it more than you realize! You can talk about hair care, shopping, Internet stories, medical things, your family: so much!
Furthermore, I encourage you to not be a woman who is constantly driving the conversation deep. It's good to know when and where someone might need to go deep with you, but always trying to have heart-to-hearts, always trying to give your wisdom, or always trying to unearth past traumas with others might make people draw back from you. And it's not because it's not good to do those things eventually, it's simply because you are causing yourself to be an extremely exhausting person to be around!
Deep talk often contains emotions, fears, and intimate thoughts. It takes a lot of energy to expel those thoughts, and not everyone feels like doing that at a family bonfire or a ladies luncheon! Don't force everyone in your life to go through counseling every time they see you: try to hold back and remember to have light conversational fun too!
This one I'm still learning. I tend to get excited or emotional about things and want to demand the time and attention of my husband the moment I feel like it, but the reality is that if he is not in the right place to hear what I am saying, the conversation will not progress how I wanted or hoped. And honestly, it's probably hard for him to get excited about a specific brand of laundry hamper I saw online after he just woke up and is starving for breakfast.
Timing is EVERYTHING in the world of conversation. Gauging the room, the social situation, and the head space of your listener will allow you to amplify your social skills and draw people TO you, not run away when they hear you're around the corner.
But that is all I have for today! Again, these are just my personal preferences and not meant to be taken too seriously. The best part about improving our conversational skills is that it can help us grow professionally, romantically, and just in general, socially.