If you avoid these 15 conversational pitfalls, you’re wiser than you think

A flowing, engaging conversation is a powerful thing. Both people are heard and appreciated. It shifts, soothes or empowers you in some way. You leave feeling that you had a meaningful exchange of energy, as well gaining as insight and information.

A good conversation is like driving a smooth, beautiful car through stunning scenery. Operating the well-oiled machine while enjoying the experience and the outlook.

So what’s under the engine of that? Wisdom. Pure and simple.

It’s kind of like a superpower.

So, how to access the wisdom underpinning great conversations? Check out these 15 pitfalls, and what may be behind them… whether that’s arrogance, anxiety, insecurity or simply learnt behaviour.

Of course, we’re human and sometimes we all get carried away, or emotional, or defensive, or distracted…

So, if you notice you’re doing any of these 15 pitfalls, and then you change your behaviour, you’re even wiser!

1) Talking too much

Ever found yourself going on and on, unable to stop?

This can come from anxiety or fear of a silence, especially with new people or in high octane situations like big family gatherings or work events.

It can also be due to self-consumption. So, you might be struggling emotionally and as soon as you get a captive audience – BOOM! You’re off and running, and you just can’t stop.

But… we don’t want our audiences to be captive! The wise know the time and place for deep emotional sharing.

Perhaps that’s with a close friend. Maybe they even take it to a therapist, for some way secure space-holding. They don’t take it into every and any conversation they have.

Of course, talking too much could also mean someone is insecure, immature or borderline narcissistic, as could…

2) Pushing your opinion on others

The wise know we’re all different – we’ve walked different paths, in different shoes, via different routes.

They respect and celebrate difference and are genuinely interested in others’ perspectives.

Of course, they won’t tolerate prejudice, and may politely move away or respectfully question it.

But equally, they won’t feel the need to push their own opinion on others. They’re comfortable and confident with who they are, and don’t need any buy-in or validation for it.

3) Assuming a particular stand-point

“Well, of course the only way to tackle (name political issue) is…”

“Obviously those idiots who think (opinion different from mine) should…”

The wise don’t assume that others have the same perspectives, views and opinions as them.

They don’t hog all the room in the conversation with “obviously” and “of course”. They don’t attempt to get buy-in for their standpoints by bullying, cajoling or talking down to people either.

Which brings us to…

4) “I know what’s best for you…”

This is a huge pitfall.

“What you should do is…”

Statements like this make your conversation buddy want to shudder and run.

And maybe someone just thinks they know what’s best… not just for you but whatever the topic, and for everyone!

However, superiority just comes off as ignorance, rather than knowledge.

There are wise ways to discuss differences of opinion, whether that’s on personal or global issues.

“Speaking for myself…” “It seems to me that…” and “From what I understand…” are good places to start.

5) Judging and having a closed mind

Being extremely judgemental and closed-minded doesn’t make for flowing, two-way, easy informative conversation either.

It usually puts people on their guard and closes them down. On a basic, fight-or-flight level they don’t feel safe to open up and share more of themselves.

Why would they? Maybe they’ll be in the firing line next!

If both participants in the chat end up feeling insecure, a conversational card game can begin…

6) Talking Top Trumps

So, someone only seems to be listening to you so they can tell you how much bigger, better or more expensive their own home, job or car is.

Guess what? They’re not really engaging with you – they’re mainly engaging with themselves.

The wise are secure, generous and genuinely interested in others, and so they avoid this pitfall with ease.

7) One size fits all

People who are only really listening to themselves also tend to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to conversations. They don’t tailor their talk to the situation or to their partner in conversation.

The wise are self-aware, grounded and present. Therefore they can be flexible, and can read the room and the other person. They tailor their conversation towards making the other person feel comfortable, interesting and heard.

Then that person happily engages with them and conversation flows.

8) Being impatient and distracted

pic1430 If you avoid these 15 conversational pitfalls, you’re wiser than you think

Of course, sometimes we’re impatient and distracted. We’re human.

It’s worth being aware, though, that impatience can come across as, “I think I’m far better than you and this conversation.”

This also goes for impatient or frustrated body language, noises, gestures. It may not be as outright as sighing or eye rolling. It could be checking their phone a lot, glancing towards the window, or using a snappy or clipped tone.

If the wise are struggling with other urgent demands and worries, or are simply not handling a conversation well, they bite the bullet, make a polite excuse and go handle their stuff.

9) Interrupting

This could be a superiority or impatience thing, yes. Or it could be that someone is excited and over-keen to show you how much they agree/resonate/know where you’re coming from.

Though misguided, this can come from a genuinely good place of wanting to establish rapport with you. As can…

10) Finishing people’s sentences

This can be intended to show that the person gets you – that you’re both on the same page.

But the wise know that the ‘same page’ doesn’t mean running all over someone else’s space.

It’s like breaching boundaries in life and can come over as insecurity, neediness or enmeshment.

As does…

11) Repeating yourself

This can suggest that you’re still looking for something from the conversation – more validation, more reassurance, more empathy…

This person may be looking to get, get, get rather than give and take in the conversation.

That tells you they’re not grounded, integrated or in their power.

It’s wiser to be direct when you seek support and simply ask it, at the right time and place.

12) Letting your emotions take over

Of course, getting emotional is healthy with the right close friend, family member or space-holding therapist.

But in most situations, having good emotional management in conversation makes the other person feel comfortable. As we know, that’s the key to building rapport and achieving easy flow.

The wise have enough skill in emotional self-regulation to decide when, where and how to share unprocessed emotion.

It’s also wise to steer clear of topics like religion and politics when you’re talking with people you don’t know well as these topics can cause emotional flare-ups.

13) Criticising people not present

This can be like a big sign saying, “I’m insecure!”

Maybe someone is looking to get closer to you by criticising a person you both know.

It doesn’t work. All you hear is that they’re negative, a moaner, and are probably going to go and complain to someone else about you next!

The wise don’t do this. They take things up with the person in question if needs be.

And if they do need to let off steam to a family member or close friend, they do their best to stick to ‘I’ statements, i.e. ‘I feel disrespected’ rather than ‘he is so disrespectful’. This keeps it within their own sphere, which is more empowering.

14) Making assumptions

Wise people check they’ve understood what is truly being said in a conversation. And if they’re not clear, they don’t fill in the blanks (either with judgements or wishful thinking!).

They’re not embarrassed to ask for clarification, whether that’s because a point is complex or a venue is noisy.

They encourage the speaker to dive deeper with open questions like “How did that make you feel?” or “How was the food there?”

They reflect back to you what you’ve said. Not in a robotic way but with simple comments like, “Sounds like a really fun time, especially the walk through the park afterwards.”

They also check that you understand them – leaving pauses and giving lots of open body language to encourage you to speak up if you don’t. 

15) Being tone-deaf

Being tone-deaf can be used to describe someone who isn’t picking up on the tone of voice or emotion of the speaker, and therefore not responding in the appropriate way.

They might be flippant about someone’s recent loss, or get too personal.

They might not read the cues that someone is uncomfortable with a topic or wanting more physical space.

The wise are body-aware and energy sensitive. They pick up on these signals, even when they’re subtle. And then they act on them – because the other person’s comfort really matters to them.

Final thoughts

Of course, sometimes we’ll be all over the place in conversation – messy, emotional, repetitive, distracted and going on and on.

It’s natural. We’re human and this shows our glorious vulnerability. The wise person accepts that too and loves themselves for it.

But generally, if you avoid these pitfalls, you’ll watch yourself grow and grow in wisdom, as well as enjoying the fact that others open up to you more too!

Picture of Kelly Mckain

Kelly Mckain

I’m Kelly McKain, the author of over sixty fiction titles – my latest is The Feeling Good Club , a mindfulness series for kids. I love writing, yoga, horses, dancing and spending time in nature – as well as hanging out with my amazing kids and partner. I’m also a qualified Breathwork Facilitator and the founder of Soulsparks , a platform for intuitive guidance, energy healing and exploring non-duality. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram .

Enhance your experience of Ideapod and join Tribe, our community of free thinkers and seekers.

Related articles

Most read articles

Get our articles

Ideapod news, articles, and resources, sent straight to your inbox every month.