There’s an art to good conversation, and sometimes we don’t get it quite right. When it comes to conversational mishaps, there’s impolite…and then there’s annoying. Certain patterns are not only irritating but also don’t work or move the relationship forward. Here are five conversational pet peeves to avoid (we’re all guilty of at least a few!) :
1) Asking Veiled Questions
This refers to asking something in a roundabout way instead being upfront. For example, you might ask your friend, “what are your plans this Saturday?”, but what you really want to know is, “can you help me move this Saturday?” The reason this is problematic is because it creates anxiety for the other person. He/ she has to guess what it is you’re going for. It’s much better to be direct and honest about your question.
2) Arguing Feelings with Facts
This means that someone addresses an emotional concern with a statement instead of validating feelings. For example, a woman may tell her husband that it hurts her feelings when he often comes home late without calling her. If he responds, “I wasn’t late on Monday!” he is fixating on the facts instead of addressing the fact that she is upset. Some people resort to this tactic as a way to avoid blame, but it often backfires and leaves the other person even more frustrated than before. Focus on the real issue instead of getting distracted by the details.
3) Offering Opinions as Reality
Some people are so committed to their views that they see them as absolute truth. A parent may say something like, “That teacher is horrible!”, but what is a much better alternative is “My daughter really struggled in that teacher’s class.” It’s important to be aware of our own bias and own up to our feelings. Recognize that not everyone else will necessarily have your same experience or opinion.
4) Leading with “Don’t you think…? ”
We’ve all heard someone say, “Don’t you think…?” and then proceed with his/her own view about something. It’s a way of framing the conversation to be controlling. Leading a sentence this way is also a setup for an argument with someone who doesn’t agree. Don’t assume someone has the same view as you, and resist the temptation to bandwagon people to your side.
5) Hijacking Feedback
This refers to how some individuals confronted with critical feedback turn the dialogue back on themselves. For example, if you tell a friend that you were offended that you were left out of a group lunch, she would be hijacking the feedback if she said something along the lines of, “I’m such a bad friend! I always leave people out, and I’m not considerate of other people.” You then are forced to comfort her from her shame, whereas she should be the one owning up to what she did. In situations like these, it’s important to really hear the other person out, resist making it about you, and then owning up to your words or actions.