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#1
Old 02-28-2010, 10:29 PM
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I have a broad range of interests and I am well-read, why is it hard for me to converse?

A lot of people say it is hard for them to carry on a conversation with me. And I have a hard time carrying on a conversation with other people.

It's not like I don't have anything to talk about. I have a lot of interests ranging from the girly to the guyish to the jockish to the nerdish. I go to a new restaurant or bar or place of special interest almost every week. I also read a lot. Especially the news and current events and science related stuff. The only two things I don't talk about are my personal life (I don't have much of one) and gossip (minefields!). Pop culture is a distant third.

Yet I can't seem to make a connection. I sense that I bore people to death.
#2
Old 02-28-2010, 11:07 PM
Diz Diz is offline
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Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but it appears to me that 90+% of people's everyday conversations consist of their personal life, gossip, and pop culture.

That would certainly explain it
#3
Old 02-28-2010, 11:10 PM
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Hard to say without having a real conversation with you. But a few questions:

1) All these subjects you're able to talk about - do you introduce them into the conversation? It may be that you start randomly talking about a news item or a new restaurant, and the person you're talking to couldn't care less.

2) Do you listen as well as talk? Monitor yourself and see if you're monopolizing the conversation.

3) Do you talk about the person you're talking to? Ask them what they do for a living, where they're from, what they're interested in? IIRC, in Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People, he says that the most previous sound to most people's ears is the sound of their own name being spoken. Most people love to talk about themselves - that can be a great way to keep a conversation going. And actually, you might just buy a copy of the Carnegie book - lots of helpful and practical advice in there.

Conversations with people can be hard - good luck.
#4
Old 02-28-2010, 11:23 PM
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It may be because you tend to avoid talking about some of the "easy" topics that people use as conversation starters (personal life, pop culture, and gossip). Current events can be a good starter, but people may not want to venture into any topic that is remotely political if they don't know you well, especially in a work setting. If you feel you aren't making a connection, are you sharing something about yourself (maybe a funny story that happened to you)?
#5
Old 02-28-2010, 11:37 PM
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Random ideas that occur to me on the topic, not knowing you personally, but having a lot of sympathy for you. I've had similar experiences.

I suggest you re-focus your objective to making people enjoy talking with you, instead of finding interesting things to say, and showing what you know.

Try talking less, and listening more. Aim for speaking half as long as your partner. Ask more questions, even if you may know the answer, to let your conversation partner expand on their interest. Google and research "active listening". Buy books on it. Heck, do a search on it on this board. Master it. It will improve how you relate to your co-workers, your spouse/lover, and even your children. It is the closes thing to a Jedi mind trick to defuse mad people who are screaming at you, esp. customers and significant others. It can save marriages. Yes, it's that powerful.

Let your conversation partner talk about themselves. Everyone loves talking about themselves. If the conversations flags a bit, then you can take out some of the knowledge you have, but use it to set up a question to your partner about themselves. Try to pick a topic you think the person is likely interested in, or one relating to something you have in common.

Aim to improve your understanding of people's body language. You can do this through books, courses, and web sites. This is way more important than you appreciate right now. Learn to read what other people are saying, but, more importantly, find out what messages you are sending as well. A course I took (was sent to by my boss, actually) showed me I stood too close to the partner (looming over them), faced them too squarely (confrontational) and spoke too loudly (also confrontational). Implementing what the course people said felt so fake at first, but it totally changed the way colleagues related to me. It was like they had all been reprogrammed to be nicer, to listen to me more, and to not reject what I was saying anymore. After a week, I was almost weeping at the "injustice" of not having known this 10 years earlier, when I was starting out in the world.

Use your body language to convey openness and interest, that you enjoy listening to what the other person is saying. At the same time, watch for signs of boredom like closed postures, looking away, and interest in fiddle toys. If you see them after you've been talking a while, STFU ASAP, and make them talk instead.

I think the frustration you feel results from trying to improve the wrong dimension of your conversational skills. It's not your knowledge base that's the matter, it's the manner in which you carry out conversation. I hope this helps you.
#6
Old 02-28-2010, 11:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diz View Post
Perhaps I'm being overly cynical, but it appears to me that 90+% of people's everyday conversations consist of their personal life, gossip, and pop culture.

That would certainly explain it
I used to think that this was a girly girl thing, now it looks like that many people's conversations revolve around those things.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01 View Post
Hard to say without having a real conversation with you. But a few questions:

1) All these subjects you're able to talk about - do you introduce them into the conversation? It may be that you start randomly talking about a news item or a new restaurant, and the person you're talking to couldn't care less.

2) Do you listen as well as talk? Monitor yourself and see if you're monopolizing the conversation.

3) Do you talk about the person you're talking to? Ask them what they do for a living, where they're from, what they're interested in? IIRC, in Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People, he says that the most previous sound to most people's ears is the sound of their own name being spoken. Most people love to talk about themselves - that can be a great way to keep a conversation going. And actually, you might just buy a copy of the Carnegie book - lots of helpful and practical advice in there.

Conversations with people can be hard - good luck.
1. I have not paid attention one way or the other.

2. I do more listening than talking, I'm always called quiet or shy. I'm not really either, I simply have nothing to say in response to what people are talking about.

3. Yeah, I like to ask questions about where they're from, where they went to high school, if they have any siblings, if they are dating and for how long and where they met them, how was their weekend, etc.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sidney Evgeni Jordan View Post
It may be because you tend to avoid talking about some of the "easy" topics that people use as conversation starters (personal life, pop culture, and gossip). Current events can be a good starter, but people may not want to venture into any topic that is remotely political if they don't know you well, especially in a work setting. If you feel you aren't making a connection, are you sharing something about yourself (maybe a funny story that happened to you)?
I don't find those topics easy at all. I don't have much of a personal life (girlfriends, dating, work drama, etc.), the little personal life I do have I don't like to talk about. As for gossip, I don't really pay attention gossip-like subjects, like if Sally was flirting Benjamin eventhough she's engaged to Ron. The stuff I do pay attention to I don't have an opinion of either way or I'm scared what I said will get back to the original person I'm talking about.

Again these two areas are conversational minefields, to me. It's an easy way to be judged or even make enemies. Talk about hobbies or the news or whatever, and say the wrong thing, you may look incompetent at worst...but say the "wrong" thing when discussing your personal life or someone else's personal life you can be written off as a bad person.
#7
Old 03-01-2010, 12:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamonds02 View Post
2. I do more listening than talking, I'm always called quiet or shy. I'm not really either, I simply have nothing to say in response to what people are talking about.
.
Hm, this kinda changes things for me and the advice I gave earlier a bit. Can you expand on "not having anything to say" a bit? Are you experiencing an emotion that makes it hard at the time to say something? Do you find what most people talk about so boring or foreign to you that you have no desire to continue? Is it more like an actor having stage fright or forgetting their lines? Help us understand this a bit more, please.

Active listening may help you in this as the paraphrasing techniques are always useful when you don't know what to say...
#8
Old 03-01-2010, 12:16 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trupa View Post
Hm, this kinda changes things for me and the advice I gave earlier a bit. Can you expand on "not having anything to say" a bit? Are you experiencing an emotion that makes it hard at the time to say something? Do you find what most people talk about so boring or foreign to you that you have no desire to continue? Is it more like an actor having stage fright or forgetting their lines? Help us understand this a bit more, please.

Active listening may help you in this as the paraphrasing techniques are always useful when you don't know what to say...
Agreed...my impression from your OP was that you were maybe babbling away but not connecting to people. If you're attentive to them and listening as much as talking but still not connecting, that's a different matter.

Are you really self-conscious when you talk to people? If so, that might be tripping up the conversation. Do you show enthusiasm when you're in a conversation? Maybe your "neutral face" is unbeknownst to you conveying that you are bored or something?
#9
Old 03-01-2010, 12:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01 View Post
Are you really self-conscious when you talk to people? If so, that might be tripping up the conversation. Do you show enthusiasm when you're in a conversation? Maybe your "neutral face" is unbeknownst to you conveying that you are bored or something?
This would suggest a potentially useful exercise, Diamonds02. Do you have one or two persons irl with whom you're comfortable discussing this? If so, can you ask them if they notice if you're different as a conversation partner? You can even try this yourself if you can manage to video yourself having a chat with someone for long enough that you forget the camera is there.
#10
Old 03-01-2010, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamonds02 View Post
I don't find those topics easy at all. I don't have much of a personal life (girlfriends, dating, work drama, etc.), the little personal life I do have I don't like to talk about. As for gossip, I don't really pay attention gossip-like subjects, like if Sally was flirting Benjamin eventhough she's engaged to Ron. The stuff I do pay attention to I don't have an opinion of either way or I'm scared what I said will get back to the original person I'm talking about.

Again these two areas are conversational minefields, to me. It's an easy way to be judged or even make enemies. Talk about hobbies or the news or whatever, and say the wrong thing, you may look incompetent at worst...but say the "wrong" thing when discussing your personal life or someone else's personal life you can be written off as a bad person.
As to gossip and minefields, I would say "it depends" - there's gossip and there's Gossip. If you're at work and someone mentions, "hey, Sally got assigned to that new project," that's less dangerous than discussing whether Sally was flirting with Benjamin on a business trip. If you're in a social setting and it's a conversation about someone in your social circle, that can be a bit more dicey. I guess something to think about is how have you been deflecting the conversation when someone else tries to engage you in gossip? You may be conveying, either overtly or through body language, that you think gossip is boring or wrong or petty or whatever. Assuming that you want to connect with that person, you want to let them save face while you steer the conversation to another topic.

I'm not sure what kind of problems you're worried about in discussing someone else's personal life. If you stick to general topics like, do you have a girlfriend, how did you meet, etc., you should be fine, I think. Someone might volunteer personal information to see how you respond, but if you have an open mind and try to gauge when the person wants to change the subject, I think it should be OK.
#11
Old 03-01-2010, 01:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trupa View Post
Hm, this kinda changes things for me and the advice I gave earlier a bit. Can you expand on "not having anything to say" a bit? Are you experiencing an emotion that makes it hard at the time to say something? Do you find what most people talk about so boring or foreign to you that you have no desire to continue? Is it more like an actor having stage fright or forgetting their lines? Help us understand this a bit more, please.

Active listening may help you in this as the paraphrasing techniques are always useful when you don't know what to say...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01 View Post
Agreed...my impression from your OP was that you were maybe babbling away but not connecting to people. If you're attentive to them and listening as much as talking but still not connecting, that's a different matter.

Are you really self-conscious when you talk to people? If so, that might be tripping up the conversation. Do you show enthusiasm when you're in a conversation? Maybe your "neutral face" is unbeknownst to you conveying that you are bored or something?
It's usually that I don't have experiences with what they're talking about...or that I do know what they're talking about, but I have no opinions.
#12
Old 03-01-2010, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamonds02 View Post
I sense that I bore people to death.
Do you listen to them? When they talk about something you have no experience or knowledge about, do you ask questions? Do you make "I see, do go on" noises?

Last edited by Nava; 03-01-2010 at 02:07 PM.
#13
Old 03-01-2010, 03:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodgers01 View Post
Hard to say without having a real conversation with you. But a few questions:

1) All these subjects you're able to talk about - do you introduce them into the conversation? It may be that you start randomly talking about a news item or a new restaurant, and the person you're talking to couldn't care less.

2) Do you listen as well as talk? Monitor yourself and see if you're monopolizing the conversation.

3) Do you talk about the person you're talking to? Ask them what they do for a living, where they're from, what they're interested in? IIRC, in Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends And Influence People, he says that the most previous sound to most people's ears is the sound of their own name being spoken. Most people love to talk about themselves - that can be a great way to keep a conversation going. And actually, you might just buy a copy of the Carnegie book - lots of helpful and practical advice in there.

Conversations with people can be hard - good luck.
In general, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a resource everybody should consult. It's the only worthwhile self-help book I've ever seen.
#14
Old 03-01-2010, 03:05 PM
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Don't ask yes-or-no questions. It's too easy to have someone answer them, and leave the conversation dead there. If you're asked one, answer it and then elaborate- don't simply let the thing die right there! I've seen people who are impossible to converse with simply from this problem.
#15
Old 03-02-2010, 12:02 AM
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Are you the second guy in this video? He's not so good at conversation. http://youtube.com/watch?v=MjMYQyhjiYA
#16
Old 03-03-2010, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diamonds02 View Post
A lot of people say it is hard for them to carry on a conversation with me. And I have a hard time carrying on a conversation with other people.

It's not like I don't have anything to talk about. I have a lot of interests ranging from the girly to the guyish to the jockish to the nerdish. I go to a new restaurant or bar or place of special interest almost every week. I also read a lot. Especially the news and current events and science related stuff. The only two things I don't talk about are my personal life (I don't have much of one) and gossip (minefields!). Pop culture is a distant third.

Yet I can't seem to make a connection. I sense that I bore people to death.
You got some good advice. I was shy when I was younger and trying to make conversation was hard for me. Now I talk easily and I think it is just a matter of being yourself. Smiling helps and lets people know your approachable. Keep going to the same places and after a while the regulars will get to know you. Just go with the flow and relax and enjoy the person your speaking with. Most people are interesting if you can find something they like. People as a rule like to talk about themselves but conversation is a two way street. Your going to have to open up a bit to keep it going. Never tell anyone you don't have anything interesting to say.

You may be projecting your feelings of feeling boring and people can pick up on that. Just smile, relax and go with the flow. Laughing and joking helps too. Good Luck!
#17
Old 03-04-2010, 10:09 PM
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My older brother has a terrible time with conversation, even though he is bright, articulate, and funny as hell.

First, his voice is so soft, people have to work to hear him. Then, he never starts a conversation, and he just doesn't do the small talk most people do. While small talk may be boring, it gives conversation partners a chance to size each other up, check tone of voice, body language, and other non-verbal clues to socializing.

The most awkward part of conversation with my brother is the incredibly long pauses. At some point, my brother decided not to speak until he had his entire thought lined up as a complete, grammatically correct sentence. He does not say "um", "uh", or "well", which are verbal cues that something more is coming. Instead, he sits there, perfectly silent, usually looking away from the other person's face for at least four seconds before he speaks. Four seconds doesn't sound long, but in a conversation, it's an awkward pause that pressures the other person into speaking.

I literally have to sit on my hands and bite my tongue to stay quiet long enough for him to talk. Otherwise, I end up blurting out things to fill in the awkward pause. I have to make a mental effort to solicit his opinion or thoughts and then wait for him to give them. Otherwise, he's a clam. And the thing is, he's a really wonderful person - clever, funny, thoughtful, insightful. Everyone in the family loves him, but most people can't sit down and talk with him for five minutes, because they feel so awkward.
#18
Old 03-04-2010, 10:19 PM
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One of the best ways to converse, on these sorts of topics, is to start off on something simple. From there, you build up a foundation for the rest of the conversation. For example, Diamonds02, you stated that you avoid some areas, whereas the plebs, like me, are interested in the pop culture references, etc. So, the best way to introduce politics, science, etc. would be to start off with something slightly less high fluentant. And once the conversation is underway, introduce the topics to support your claim. Just a thought.
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