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3 Things People Who Are Good at Conversation Don’t Do, According to a Research Psychologist

By Minda Zetlin for INC.

How good are you at having a conversation? If you’re like most people, you may wonder about your own conversational skills. The truth is, being good at conversation is as much about what you don’t say as it is about what you do say.

In an insightful post for Psychology Today, Dave Smallen, a research psychologist at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, identifies six bad conversational habits we should all avoid if we want to have good conversations. You may have been guilty of all six — I certainly have. But, as Smallen says, the point is not to be perfect all the time. The point is to be aware of these pitfalls and of how you come across to others. That will help you eliminate them as much as possible.

It’s worth checking out all six habits. Here are the ones I think are the biggest problems.

1. Interrupting.

Different people from different backgrounds have varying attitudes toward interrupting each other. I learned this from my husband. In his large, Irish-American family, everyone talked all at once and that was considered normal, he once told me. In my much smaller family, we almost never interrupted each other, and some family members, such as my father, didn’t do much talking at all.

Interruption may not seem like a big deal to you, but it might be a big deal to other people. It’s also worth noting that interrupting can be an expression of power (i.e., the boss interrupts the subordinate but not the other way around), and that research has repeatedly shown that women get interrupted more often than men do.

The bottom line is that interrupting is bad and you shouldn’t do it. If you absolutely have to interrupt someone, because they’re saying something long and you’re late to a meeting, for example, apologize for the interruption when you do it. And, as Smallen notes, if you catch yourself after you’ve already interrupted someone, it’s perfectly fine to say, “Oops, sorry I interrupted. Keep going.”
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