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Do You Make These 7 Common Mistakes and Bore People Half to Death?



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“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere”.
Lee Iacocca

“The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.”
Voltaire

One way to make conversations a lot more awkward and unfulfilling is to bore people to half to death. Sometimes you don’t even know you are doing it (that’s at least what I have done). So today I’d like to list 7 common mistakes that I have made in conversations to help myself – and maybe someone else too – to avoid them in the future.

If you find you might make one or a few of these mistakes a bit too often don’t beat yourself up about it. That’s pointless. Just be conscious of it in your daily interactions and do the best you can to improve.

1. Babbling on.

I have found it to be helpful to be reasonably brief when, for example, telling someone a story. The long and very convoluted version seldom seems to be as appreciated as the shorter and snappier one.

Babbling on too much is, at least in my opinion, something that often comes from being too focused inward. Being too focused on yourself in a conversation.

If you instead focus more outward you’ll be less self-conscious. This reduces nervousness and slightly nonsensical babbling.

And if you focus more outward, on the people you are talking to and less on your own glorious voice and golden words you’ll be more aware of what you are saying and how the conversation is going. If you focus on the other guy/gal you’ll be more focused on getting through and you are more attentive to how your message comes across and what reactions you bring out.

2. Clinging to a topic like a drowning man.

Hanging on to a topic for too long can make a conversation boring and awkward. Often there is a natural transition from topic to topic. But if you keep coming back to the same topic over and over again or cling to it while the other(s) want to move on then you are interrupting the flow.

This can also evolve into a situation where you feel you need to be right at all costs. That’s when things tend to get really awkward. Try lightening up and letting go if you feel that is a common problem you are experiencing.

It can be interesting to listen to someone talking a lot about their passion in life. But you still have to be flexible, let the conversation flow back and forth and be mindful of the fact that not everyone will be so interested in something as you are.

A lot of the time people just want to share moments, exchange positive emotions and feel like they are connected by for example being able to relate to you in some way. I still think you talk about a hobby or passion no matter how odd it may be but it is helpful for you and the other person to avoid technical jargon, acronyms and details that only you and other enthusiasts understand.

Try to keep it simple and understandable instead. No one wants to listen to a topic that they can’t relate to in some way. Not for too long at least.

3. Being negative and whiny.

Now, it’s normal to have a bad day or just be in bad or whiny mood from time to time. But if you do it a lot or pretty much all the time, if you spend most of your time in that headspace then simply put people will probably not just be bored. They will start to avoid hanging out/talking to you.

We all have a lot going on today. And as I grow older it seems to me that people simply don’t have time or patience to listen to that negative stuff. They have more exciting things to do and more positive people that they will choose to hang out with and talk to instead.

I’d say that one of the most attractive qualities a person can have is a positive attitude and energy. It is attractive to people at your job/school, family, friends or just that cute girl/guy in the bar. And as I mentioned above, I think that one of the big things people want in any relationships is positive emotions. On a fundamental level people simply want to create a flow back and forth with people where all of you exchange positive emotions and feel good.

It is often said that enthusiasm is contagious. So is every other feeling. So not just the words you say but the mood you are in has a big effect on how people react to you and interactions and relationships develop. So be careful with your emotional states. Here is a guide to how I have improved my own attitude and maintain it at a more positive level than I used to.

4. Not listening.

Not really listening is perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make. It has certainly been one of my biggest issues in conversations and although I think I have improved it still is.

If you are just waiting for your turn to talk instead of listening then you’ll often miss much of what is said (verbally or non-verbally). There will be a lack of genuine understanding and disconnect that makes the conversation less exciting than it could be.

Just like I mentioned in tip #1, focusing outward and on the other person and not on yourself makes it a lot easier to be a better listener.

5. Thinking it’s all about me, me, me!

So it’s pretty obvious from what you have already read so far in this article that if you focus too much on yourself then a conversation or any sort of relationship will probably become pretty boring. You will become a bad listener. You will tend to prattle on endlessly about what you like to talk about.

People are interested in themselves. That is one big reason why for example a lot of people always think everyone is thinking or talking about them and so they become shy or they don’t experience the sort of social freedom that they could.

People want to be understood and feel a connection. If you can shift your focus away from yourself, away from having your focus split between yourself and the person you are talking to then you will be a powerful and exciting exception in their week, month or life.

6. Asking a million questions.

This can become really boring pretty quickly.

A few ways to avoid this is to:

  • Make statements. Mix things up and instead of asking what someone’s favorite sports team is, just declare what yours is and see what they have to say about that. And don’t be worried about making a statement the other person may not agree with. That’s ok, they won’t get mad. Instead they probably like that you are being proactive and open and are sharing what you really think instead of putting up a front to avoid a confrontation and to get them to like you.
  • Try being quiet if there is a pause. There are sometimes pauses in conversations. You don’t have to be the one to always dive in and ask a new question to get thing rolling again. Try just being at ease with being quiet and let the other person continue instead.

7. Not being right here, right now.

This is perhaps the biggest mistake one can make. And if one can avoid it then many of the other problems above tend to reduce themselves.

Being present is not a magic pill but in a conversation it can be huge.

You are right there and you are listening just to what the other person is saying. You focus is not split. You are not thinking about what to say. Instead you let the conversation evolve naturally as you say what comes to mind. You are more relaxed, positive and open because you are not somewhere in the past or future reliving bad experiences or imagining some horrible scenario.

In this headspace people also tend to be funnier, more fun and exciting and playful in general. It’s like bringing out a better self but not having to rely on “having a good day” to do it.

My top three ways to reconnect with the present moment right now are:

  • Paraliminals. I reviewed these guided meditation cds a few months ago on the blog and they have become my favourite way to reconnect with present. I just plop down on my bed for 25 minutes or so to relax and listen. Afterwards I feel relaxed and energized and my self-talk tends to shut down or decrease significantly for maybe half a day. This makes it a lot easier to be in the present moment and just focus on what is going on right now.
  • Focus on your breathing. Take belly breaths for a minute or two and just focus on them and nothing else.
  • Focus on what’s right in front of you. Or around you. Or on you. Use your senses. Just look at what’s right in front of you right now. Listen to the sounds around you. Feel the fabric of your clothes and focus on how they feel. You can for instance use the summer sun or rain and how it feels on your skin to connect with the present.

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  • Vi | Maximizing Utility June 9, 2009, 5:59 pm

    All your suggestions are wonderful and on point, but the one that really spoke to me was “Make Statements.” I tend to ask questions and then the conversation starts sounding like an interrogation, which is really not fun. I also tend to be shy and reserved, so I don’t offer up a lot of information about myself. I think that “Make Statements” is exactly what I should try out. That is, offer up information about myself, thus being more open, and seeing what others may offer in return.

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:07 pm

      Awesome! Yep, making statements is often better than asking questions.

  • Positively Present June 9, 2009, 7:54 pm

    I definitely used to be very negative and not present when I was talking to others. I was always concerned about other things I had to do instead of really listening. Now that I’m focusing on living a more positive and present life I find that really have much better connections with people (and hopefully I’m no longer boring them!)

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:08 pm

      That’s great to hear, I’m happy that you have been able to make that shift.

  • Roger - A Content Life June 9, 2009, 8:21 pm

    I’m guilty of 6.

    I’m also guilty of 7 if I’m bored. I find that focusing on my breath and the person’s face helps me to reengage.

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:08 pm

      Good point about focusing on the face to come back to the present moment, thanks for sharing that!

  • Dawn June 9, 2009, 8:30 pm

    I love this…I have been victim of these mistakes…and been guilty of as well…Great advice…just keep it simple…

    Thanks…I may print this out and hang it up for my next gathering…

  • Clinton Skakun June 9, 2009, 10:29 pm

    This is actually pretty good. I know ppl(wont mention names) who have a habit of babbling on about the same thing constantly. Just pisses me off. It’s hard to look interested or feel like your having a conversation because it’s more like they want to shove something down your throat.

    great post!

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:09 pm

      Thank you! Haha, yeah, that stuff can get pretty irritating.

  • Basant June 10, 2009, 7:53 am

    I do make all these mistakes. My friends and clients are all need to be rewarded well for being with me still.

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:11 pm

      Well, I think most people make these mistakes to some degree. Or have at least done so previously. The most important thing is to decrease the number of times you make these mistakes in for example your normal week.

  • Aida Tanchoco June 10, 2009, 9:05 am

    Be useful article, I will have this on my blog . And by the way I post it on facebook.

  • Srinivas Rao June 10, 2009, 5:34 pm

    I’ve definitely been negative in the past. But, I think the greatest piece o your advice is presence. Seems be the theme of the day based on other blog posts I’ve read. These are some great conversational pointers. I’ve become a huge fan of paraliminals myself.

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:12 pm

      Yes, being present is one of the most powerful thing I have discovered so far. It can help you in so many ways. Great to hear that you are finding your Paraliminals helpful too, they are pretty great.

  • Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com June 10, 2009, 6:48 pm

    Hi Henrik,

    Your #1 Babbling on reminds me very much of my girlfriend! Ha ha… Whenever she tells me a story, she’s always very long-winded whereas I want only the main points! But she keeps arguing that that’s how you tell a story!

    Nowadays, when she goes into that mode, I’ll just interrupt and tell her to give me the main points. And if I want to know more, I’ll ask questions. I think that way, I won’t be bored to death.

    Cheers~

    Mark

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:14 pm

      Great pointers for handling too much babbling, Mark! Thanks for sharing them with us.

  • Vincent June 10, 2009, 7:21 pm

    Hi Henrik,

    It is awful to talk to people who are talking about themselves, themselves and only themselves. I have one of those experience where I talked to someone who speak only about themselves and they really bored me to tears.

    Vincent

    • Henrik Edberg June 10, 2009, 11:15 pm

      Hi Vincent, I agree, it can become quite tedious when you get stuck in one of those conversations.

  • Paul Maurice Martin June 11, 2009, 1:19 am

    These are great! I had to LOL at no. six, “Ask a million questions.” I have an aunt like that. Love her a lot but one-on-one with her… after the first ten mins. or so of non stop questions you start to feel like a nut getting pried open with the edge of a knife!

  • Laurie Lee June 11, 2009, 4:31 am

    I’m guilty of all 7. Think I will just stay home.

  • Hardeep June 11, 2009, 7:59 pm

    It’s tough to become the perfect conversationalist, though the pointers above will defintely help.

    I love how you gave alternative postive actions to take instead of the negative ones that we may be practicing.

    As always enjoyed your article,

  • Jill June 12, 2009, 4:24 am

    Excellent post. This is really eye-opening, but then again, being conscious that you might be boring the other person is usually the first big step to not being boring! Interesting tips though!

  • Meaghan June 19, 2009, 12:18 am

    Very entertaining post! Thanks for sharing!

  • Chris Phone June 21, 2009, 1:54 am

    I have to work on some things you outlined here :)
    Very interesting….

  • Daniel a.k.a. am not the werewolf June 22, 2009, 12:50 pm

    Am guilty & polluted as charged…sigh..the end.
    OR yes, am goin to jump-start again with new hoops to learn and things to un-learn. boy oh boy, it’s going to be a lonnng day for me. How about you? How’s your days been? better? i hope so, i’m just (almost) happy to be a spark in ppl’s lives! yea..electro-sparks..or just the bright-idea..whatever..gone nuts here just reading this article..i know i shouldn’t have come in here, my ‘itchified’ fingers clicked on this and walla!..i’ve got to stop and take-in the fresh air!..haha…woohoo..nuthouse, here i come.:P

  • Shaun Gisbourne June 24, 2009, 8:06 pm

    Henrik, I have to confess to being guilty of all of the above… and telemarketing is my career! Forcing oneself to shut up can be hard, especially if someone puts you on the spot on a given subject, but you have to learn to deal with it: “You want probably want the short snappy version, right? If I take too long you’ll be happy to stop me, yes?”.
    It’s the same on websites, so many are “we” focused instead of “you” focused and some leave you confused about what they offer or what problems they solve best. Frustrating, especially if you’ve taken more than 30 seconds to do it.
    Thank you for this, your ability to hit on the uncomfortable truth of a situation is a bitter sweet experience.