What makes for conversational cringe-fest and how to avoid doing it
Close friends might accept you for how you are. No matter what your tastes in food, people, music, or movies, they will let you be.
Such a friendship only develops with time. No matter how much you “click” in the first meeting — real, deep, and honest friendships form only over years. There is no way around that long road.
As kids, conversation meant simply hurling the first thing that came to mind, and thankfully, it was accepted. Adulthood is harder. What kills off a budding friendship in adulthood is bad conversation.
Regardless of whether you want to make new friends or just make good decent acquaintances, here are conversation killers you are better off avoiding.
The Food Overdose
I lived in a shared apartment with 5 others.
People moved in and out of our apartment constantly as they finished their internships or exchange semesters. In the course of my two years in that apartment, I lived with a health freak. Let’s call him John.
In the first week, John was very enthusiastic about enlightening us about his eating habits. We listened with wonder because he really did seem to have an impressive regimen.
Week 2. John is still talking about nothing but HIS food habits.
Week 3. John is scorning at us for ordering pizza on game night. He brought his own food to the table. Which we understood since he had his regimen going on. The conversation “accidentally” drifted off to how we are causing ourselves cancer.
Regardless of what anyone is talking about, John works his early-morning water routine, his late evening snack-factoid, his avocado-aficionado into the conversation.
“Hey what’s up, John!”
“Oh, you mean the bio-organic, gene technology-free bread that I am holding over my head? You should really stop buying canned beans. I see you stopped working out, I already have my 2 hours of Yoga behind me.”
By the time I moved out, John made sure we knew everything about his food and can habits. John doesn't have my new address.
The condescending one
I moved into my new apartment recently.
Thanks to the pandemic, I can only have a few people over at a time. I invited my friends one or two at a time, depending on what the law allowed.
Sometimes for dinner, sometimes for a game evening. In all, I had a brilliant time with my friends, except when some of them used the conversation to mildly condescend.
My friend, who walked into the kitchen seconds after I finished cooking casually remarked “Oh, I see you didn’t clean the kitchen yet, that’s ok, I’m flexible”.
All this when I was preparing for people to come over. After 8 hours of work. Because I liked them.
If you are visiting and you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.
The competitive one
So this happened to me.
I was returning from a party with a group of friends. Annie, my friend in the driver’s seat, said “Wow, that was awesome! I didn’t party like that even in college!”.
Rosa, also in the car goes “No? My college life was awesome! I was constantly at parties. I had so much fun, this party was SO boring in comparison.”
The car fell silent.
Whatever we were going to say about that awesome party, we didn’t say it. Annie wasn’t expecting competition, she was trying to be cheerful and make small-talk.
The competitive tone Rosa had chosen made us worried that we would be one-upping instead of just exchanging experiences. After a long awkward silence, Annie chose something else to talk about.
Don’t get competitive. Listen and hi-five. Don’t one-up.
Dealing with all that — Your role
For a long time, it bothered me heavily to deal with a conversation that is “not ok” in my opinion. One long look at myself suggested that everybody has their quirks.
Lying, bullying, bad-mouthing being a no-go, I think it is possible to continue to maintain healthy relationships also after killed conversations. Just because someone made an error, doesn’t mean they are evil. To be fair, we are all equally evil.
There are situations out there that would make you behave the same way you are being “behaved to”. Trust me, there are. When you encounter a conversation that pushes all your wrong buttons, try not to react immediately.
It is hard. After all, we are human. Flex your tolerance and try to move past one conversation at a time.
In order to have a fulfilling and low-stress (it is never going to be no-stress) social life, it is important to be able to “let go”.