Following up yesterday’s post about conversational mistakes, here’s another I see all the time. This one is more serious than yesterday’s for two reasons.
First, it will more likely kill a conversation.
Second, people who do it seem unable to stop themselves, even when they realize the problem.
It affects all types of conversations, but I’ll describe it in the context of my Meaningful Connection exercise. It goes like this:
Person 1: “What’s a passion of yours?”
Person 2: “I love traveling.”
Person 1: “Oh, me too. Let me tell you all about my trip to Greece. It was amazing…”
I’m sure you see the mistake, but I’ll describe it in general to show how the problem can affect many relationships.
Person 2 asked Person 1 to name something important, then derailed it to hog the conversation. You’ve seen it happen. People have done it to you. You may have done it to others.
Person 2 could have at least asked Person 1 if they wanted to hear about their travels. Person 1 said they had a passion for traveling, not listening to other people talk aboutÂ their travels.
Note also that Person 1 asked Person 2 to do the work of coming up with a topic. Person 1 derailing or monopolizing the conversation after Person 2 did the work will discourage Person 2 from contributing more. Person 2 may feel used for Person 1’s entertainment. What’s the point of sharing personal details for someone else to ignore and trample over? Person 2 will start looking for ways to exit the conversation.
People often say “But I really did care about the other person’s passion. Then I wanted to share something important with them.” Again, your caring doesn’t mean you didn’t ask them from doing the conversational work. And just because you consider something important doesn’t mean they agree. They just shared a passion, which you know they care about. It’s unlikely they care about your thing more, especially then.
The Meaningful Connection exercise keeps you focused on the other person.
In other contexts, keeping focused on the other person’s interests before yours will help you motivate them to stay in your conversations.
Before changing subjects, asking the other person if they mind helps keep them from feeling like you’re trampling over their interests.
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