Conversation Destroyers

When you look at the topic of conversation destroyers you may deem it to be a rather boring topic. However, it is important to remember that relationships are built through conversations over time. Having the ability to converse correctly will also lead to increased Social Intelligence by knowing how to listen and respond appropriately. In saying this, I would like to go over some of these aspects that tend to break down healthy conversations.

  1. Suspending Judgement
    Something I see quite often is that when people don't suspend judgement, they often land up regretting what they said. Even in my own personal life, I sometimes even find myself jumping to conclusions and not hearing the other person out. In doing something like this, the impact that it may have on the other person may range from making them feel small and insignificant to making them irritated as they get the impression that you think that you have you all figured out and are therefore superior to them.

  2. Perceptual Distortions
    This trait rears its head when you are constantly seeking external validation from other people. This often occurs with people that are insecure with themselves and don't think that they are competent and have to look to others for validation. The moment that you look for this it distorts the conversation because if you don't get the expected "daily compliment", you start judging the situation and the person which becomes a huge conversation destroyer. For example, if you are always looking for a compliment on the quality of your code and you don't get it one day, you will start to wonder what the problem is and what is wrong with the other person.

  3. Mixing Issues
    This is important when it come to having those difficult conversations and I find it to be applicable in not only in your business life, but personal life as well. What this entails is to not bring up past issues and mixing them with the issues at hand. If something that comes up that is an issue, then just note it and put it to the side where you can sort the issue out on a different occasion. Acknowledge that it is important, but it doesn't belong to the topic at hand.

  4. Using Superlatives
    First off, for those who don't know what superlative is, it can be defined as:

    An exaggerated or hyperbolic expression

    So an example of this would be "Ric, you always forget to check in your code before you leave". When you speak in superlatives, the person you usually goes on the defence and says "What do you mean? Last week, I always checked in my code" which then causes the discussion to move towards a debate where you are discussing whether or not this is true, instead of the actual topic at hand. Unfortunately, this is one of the things I find other people, including myself, doing so it does take some effort to correct.

  5. Not Seeking to Understand
    When you have a dialogue with someone you want them to give their point of view as well so you can try to understand what they are saying. It shouldn't be a dictatorship where there is just a one-sided conversation as if it reaches that point, the other person will get frustrated and feel helpless as they cannot get their view across. Lucius Annaeus Seneca has a quote that I really like, which I believe to be very true.

    One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.

  6. Not Really Listening
    This conversation destroyer can be broken down into a two different areas:

    • Selective Listening - You may have seen in meetings or discussion where people just switch off when a particular person is speaking. You choose not to hear them out. The converse is also true where you listen with intent when someone else is speaking
    • Not Actively Listening - This is when you don't pay full attention to the person talking and only take in enough to vaguely understand what they are talking about. This seems to happen quite a bit and I know that I have been guilty of this as well.

      When people really listen and understand you, you come out feeling great and significant, which is not only the sign of a great leader, but also leads to a greater social influence

  7. Not Contributing
    This is one aspect which I have been guilty of a few times. Typically, it was when I was feeling despondent and didn't feel like my contributions were worth anything. A lot of people tend to be passive and don't bring their experiences or intellect to the conversation. You want to leave the person where they say "Those 5 minutes with them were worth their weight in gold", cause you have made it worth their while. At the end of the day, your input always counts!

  8. Be Engaged
    Typically, we tend to be very engaged while we are doing the speaking, but as soon as that is over we sit back and switch off. This gives the perception to other people that you are only interested in what you have say and you could land up making other people feel worthless. Laughter is also a good tool to use, as people connect easier with people that have a playful and funny nature and diffuses the situations when things get tense.

  9. Finishing Off People Sentences
    I know I have this habit and I'm trying to hold myself back from doing this. You should allow the people that are speaking to finish their own sentences off and you shouldn't assume that you know what they are going to say. If you do, you may come across as not having time for them. If you do need them to be brief, then let them know and ask them to give you the highlights. A little tip that I stumbled upon is that if you are in a rush only look at your watch when you are talking so them. In this way, you don't make them feel "sorry" to delay you in your rush.

    Another reason for finishing off people sentences is that you feel a sense of pride by "telling" them that you already know about the issue, so there is nothing new that you can tell me. It may start to become a race and a competition between the people.

  10. Only Telling, Never Asking
    You get some people who continuously tell you what to do, almost in a dictator like fashion. They never stop to take a moment and ask themselves what the heart of the matter is. Great leaders are able to listen and get to the issue at hand by asking the right questions to focus on the elephant in the room.

So that wraps up this post. I hope you found some useful information in it. Like I have mentioned, I'm guilty of some of these things but it is important to remember that they can always be corrected and changed.

Until next time...keep learning!

Mauro Da Silva

Learning everyday about software development, leadership & self improvement

South Africa