by JoJo Tabares
Everyone can talk, but not everyone is a good conversationalist. If you haven’t had much experience or training, there are some conversation mistakes that can make you someone nobody wants to talk to.
1. Mr. Prove-It:
Mr. Prove-It will make you prove the validity of everything that comes out of your mouth. Having a conversation with him is like swimming upstream. Their favorite expression is “Really?!”. They take all the fun out of a conversation! Often they can be found leaning back in their chair, stroking their chin with a look of superiority on their face. Mr. Prove-It leaves no stone unturned. This is an extreme example but Mr. Prove-It can be more subtle:
Mr. Prove-It: So when are you leaving on your trip to Hawaii?
Mr. Trapped-Rat: About 3am. We got 50% off, but it has some strings.
Mr. Prove-It: 50% off? Really?!
Mr. Trapped-Rat: Yes. We were so excited …
Mr. Prove-It: That doesn’t sound right!
Mr. Trapped-Rat: Yes. It’s a promotion for employees where I work. We are very excited because this is the first time we have ever been to Hawaii…
Mr. Prove-It: Why would they do that? Gas prices are skyrocketing right now?
Conversation with Mr. Prove-It is a chore. When Mr. Trapped-Rat sees Mr. Prove-It coming, he’ll be inclined to run the other direction!
2. I. M. Oblivious:
Ida Mae Oblivious is also frustrating. She never seems to pay attention to what the other person is saying. She is usually quick to point out what others should be doing, but never quite absorbs the information she hears. Listening is not her forte. She’s a talker!
Ida Mae: We are all going out party hopping after the Prom. Come along with us.
H. Earme: No thank you. I have to get home.
Ida Mae: Oh everyone is going to go! Come on!
H. Earme: No thank you. I am not really a party hopper. lol
Ida Mae: Well, then it’s time you started!
H. Earme: No, really. I’m just going to go home. I have work tomorrow.
Ida Mae: Oh, come on! One late night won’t kill ya!
H. Earme: No really. I have to work tomorrow.
Ida Mae: So, you call in sick tomorrow! Come on!
Ida Mae just doesn’t give up. When she’s not trying to talk someone into doing something they don’t want, she is busy sharing ideas with people who couldn’t care less! People like to make their own decisions. They usually don’t appreciate Ida Mae’s input and usually try to avoid conversations where they know she will have an opinion!
3. Me MyselfandI
This conversationalist is so consumed with herself that she never comments on what others have said. She’s the one in the group who is always talking about her own experiences. “Me” never asks questions of anyone else, and so she knows very little about anyone. She is of no help to anyone because she never answers questions unless it is with a story about “when it happened to me…”.
Nobody OfConsequence: I am a little nervous about all these medical tests. I am praying nothing is really wrong.
Ms. MyselfandI: Six years ago I had a bunch of tests. I was so nervous that I had to have my dh ….
Nobody ofConsequence: I would appreciate your prayers that everything goes ok.
Ms. MyselfandI: Oh I remember how everyone prayed for me. Do you know that I had people praying all over the world?
Ms. MyselfandI listens “with her answer running” as they say. She doesn’t really listen, but instead, lay in wait for her chance to speak. She is instead, rehearsing what she will say in silence until it is, again, her turn in the spotlight. She doesn’t relate her experiences in order to relate with others or give them comfort. She does so to be the center of attention and her motives are almost always transparent.
4. The Reporter
The Reporter doesn’t really know how to communicate well, and she knows it. She tries hard to fit herself and her lack of self-esteem into a conversation, but she just can’t think of anything original to say so she uses fillers. She states the obvious and often feels uneasy with silence.
The Reporter: Oh! Look at that! Tommy is just so cute. He fell down. Oh, how sweet he is. Oh, look at him wobble! Awww…look at him smile. What a smile he has! So cute. Just so cute. Look at him trying to fit that sandwich into the VCR!
5. Men of Few Words
Many men are guilty of this communication faux pas. They are not interested in small talk and have little patience for questions, so they give vague, one-word answers that provide no real meaning to the person asking the question. Many times men don’t have the ability to multitask as women do so when they are asked a question while driving or at work, we get the following exchange:
Wife: I’m trying to plan for the company picnic because I need to know how much of the baby’s things to take with us. When is it?
Wife: This Saturday?
Wife: What time is the picnic?
Wife: When will it end?
Husband: I dunno.
Wife: Well, how long do you want to stay?
Husband: A few hours.
Wife: So when do we need to leave in order to get there at two? I need to know when to get the kids ready.
Women often need more than a one-word answer in order to plan what she will need to pack for an event-especially if she has small children. A long car ride means she needs to pack some games or books. A two-hour stay vs. a 4-hour stay means more diapers and change of clothes. Men don’t think about these details and have often been known to run out of the house for a few hours with nary a diaper nor a bottle for baby!
6. The Story Teller
Story Tellers are fun to listen to because they tend to be extroverts who enjoy telling a great tale! They are entertaining, energetic and animated. However, this guy never lets anyone get a word in edgewise. It can be frustrating for their audience if they intend to do anything other than listen.
Story Teller: “Oh that reminds me of the time I went on a missions trip behind the Iron Curtain!” We were smuggling Bibles in when we almost got caught by the secret police and …(and on he goes for about 25 minutes when he finally has to take a breath…)
Audience: “Wow that sounds so exciting! How did you ever get out?” (Big mistake! You just spurred him on for another 25 minutes!)
Story Teller: “You’ll never believe it! There we were, on the street being questioned by the secret police, when all of a sudden…” (And the saga continues for another 35 minutes holding his audience spellbound and wanting to contribute to the conversation which, believe it or not, originally began on the topic of painting your house!)
Audience: “I have always wanted to travel…”
Story Teller: “Oh I have been to 6 countries either on vacation or a missions trip and it is just some of the most…” (He could go on for days like this!)
The one advantage of Story Tellers is that by the end of the night, you could have a wonderful education about Russia! Unfortunately for them, they won’t know a thing about you. This is a shame since others can teach us so much by sharing their experiences-even if they haven’t experienced almost being arrested behind the Iron Curtain! Most people enjoy talking about themselves and sharing their ideas, so the Story Teller’s habit of always hogging the spotlight leaves his audience feeling left out and underappreciated.
If you ask anyone what they think a good conversationalist is, they may tell you that it is someone who speaks well or someone who tells a good story. They may think that a good conversationalist is someone who is an exciting speaker. However, if you watch people, you will notice that the people they appreciate talking to are the ones who listen to them. The best compliment I have ever received was from a woman who said I was the best conversationalist she had ever spoken with. She said she thoroughly enjoyed speaking with me and it must be because I had a degree in Speech Communication. The truth was that she taught me so much that day because I spent most of the time listening to her speak. I must have spoken about four sentences in the time we were together and they were all requests for her to elaborate more on her life!
If you want to be a good conversationalist, you need to show that you truly care about others. Listen to them. Let them share their experiences and ideas. Give them the spotlight. If you are talking to an introverted or shy person, draw them out by creating an opportunity for them to shine. Ask them about the things they know. Ask them about their job, hobby or children. You might end up learning something! Thank them for what they have taught you! Build them up! A great conversationalist listens most of the time and directs the conversation with his questions!
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication. Her Christian and humorous approach to communication skills has made her a sought-after speaker. JoJo’s articles have appeared in various homeschool magazines and websites such as Dr. Laura.com. Her Say What You Mean curricula is endorsed by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and her eBook, Say What You Mean When You’re in Business, has been used by direct sales leaders and small business owners alike. For more information, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com