Hello, new school year. Hello, new faces. Hello, new conversations, and dozens of ways for those conversations to go wrong.
Step one of doing conversations the right way is to avoid doing them the wrong way.
Speaking from experience—and by experience, I mean chatting with bad conversationalists, being a bad conversationalist, or laughing at bad conversations in YouTube shorts—I know a thing or two about what not to do.
If any of these are scarily relatable, it’s time for a change.
1) Giving replies that basically end the convo
Friend: “Hey! How are you liking this course?”
You: “It’s alright.”
Friend: “Yeah, I really like it! Ugh, I spent like 10 hours studying this weekend though.”
If you’re hoping to keep the conversation alive, giving one-worded, superficial, or uninterested replies isn’t going to cut it (unless, of course, you actually prefer the silence). Instead, tell a story, make a joke, or ask open-ended questions that prompt more interesting answers than just ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
2) Not reading cues for when to stop talking
You: “How was your week?”
Friend: “Awesome. I did Day of the LongBoat! I have a bio exam tomorrow though so I gotta run!”
You: “Cool. Biology! Do you like it? Who’s your professor? And how was Day of the LongBoat? Oh also, I wanted to ask you about Go Global exchange. You free right now?”
If they’re packing their stuff, giving short replies, or straight up are telling you they have to go...it’s time to wrap it up, bud. Read the cues, and know when to save the conversation for another time. Respect their space!
3) Forgetting to breathe between words
Friend: “Hello! How was your presentation today?”
If people constantly ask you to repeat yourself, I have two words: Speak. More slowly. (Or speak up.) Make sure you’re actually, like, breathing when you talk. And don’t forget verbal punctuation (aka pauses between phrases).
4) Only talking about yourself
Friend: “You know that person I met at work?”
You: “Yeah I think so. You work at Mercante right? Dude, I just scored a really good internship for this summer. The salary is so good. I went through like 4 interview rounds and I’m starting in two weeks! I just bought this new suit for work, I’m wearing it right now. Does it make me look handsome?”
Nobody likes someone who hogs the spotlight. When someone is excited to tell you something, validate their excitement by absorbing what they’re saying and asking questions...and waiting for your turn to speak!
5) Interrupting them mid-sentence
You: “Hi! Did you sign up for some cool clubs on Imagine Day?”
Friend: “Hey! Yes totally, I actually chatted with someone from Blank Vinyl Project and I’m going to check out th-”
You: “What does Blank Vinyl even mean?”
Friend: “It’s a music club for aspiring musicians to sup-”
You: “Dude, that’s so cool, but do you even play instruments?”
Sometimes, our excitement can get to us. And interrupting, as obvious as it may seem, can become a habit that goes unnoticed. Remember to listen and wait ‘til they’re finished their sentence.
6) Using language they don’t understand
Friend: “So how was that economics exam?”
You: “Yo, let me tell you. I’m so upset. I totally misinterpreted the rent-seeking question and neglected to account for the change in utility and opportunity cost, so my answer had some deadweight loss but apparently, it was a perfect equilibrium outcome.”
Don’t overcomplicate it. Unless they’re also an economics major, don’t bore your friend with words they can’t—and probably don’t care to—understand. Keep it simple, or prepare to do some explaining.