I was looking at a video of Gary Vaynerchuk interviewing Seth Godin .
And I realized it presented a very good case study. It has indeed several common conversation mistakes social beginners commit when they fail to build rapport.
So let’s dive in to make sure you don’t make any of those anymore:
- 1. Interrupting With Own Opinion
- 2. Focus on Winning
- 3. Undermining Their Opinions
- 4. Using NO a Bit Too Often
- 5. Not Going Deep
- rapport or honesty?
- Common Conversation Mistakes Summary
1. Interrupting With Own Opinion
This is one of the most common conversation mistakes.
It happens both in friendly conversations and, even more so, during difficult conversations and resolutions (as explained in the fantastic book Difficult Conversations).
And the more we care about a topic, the more emotional we get and the more we want to interject and dominate the conversation.
However, this is terrible both from a communication point of view and from a rapport point of view.
Our conversation partner will not listen when you interrupt them or monopolize the conversation. Mental resources are not infinite. And they will be busy dealing with bad emotions towards you, thinking what to say next and strategize on winning the argument.
When you let them finish instead, and possibly even help them along the way, their mind will be clear. And they’ll like you and respect you a lot more, which translates in more empathic listening.
From a rapport point of view, interrupting is terrible because we don’t bond with people whom we know. We bond with people whom know us. And care about us.
In humans “me” more often than not comes first.
So if you want to get respect, benevolence and attention, give it first.
The second reasons is that when you jump with your own opinion you think you know what they wanted to say, but you often get it wrong. And it will feel like the two of your are out of sync.
Exception: When She Wanna Impress You
Interestingly enough, there’s an exception. In dating situations it can happen that a girl is so willing to impress you or fix a previous mistake that she can’t help but jump in.
In that case, you should not take it as an affront but as a sign that you’re holding sway. Smile as if to say “you just interrupted me but you’re adorable so I’ll forgive you”.
2. Focus on Winning
Whenever an idea or an opinion run against what we believe in, our natural tendency is to fight it. And to prove that we are right.
Ideally that would be OK and we could all argue hard without any harm to our relationships. But that’s not the reality of the world we live in.
So choose: you can either have rapport or you can focus on who’s right. 99% of people on this earth cannot have both.
This holds true most everywhere -including at work where it shouldn’t-, but it’s worst of all early in romance:
Example: Right…. And Alone
Many years ago I went back to a girl’s place with a bottle of wine as we chatted and flirted along the way. That must have been an easy one, right? Well, it should have, yes.
But when she aired her very left wing opinions on genders, gypsies and “integration policies” this dumbas* escalated what was a bonding conversation into a discussion (super un-sexy). I started explaining why my ideas where “right”, and I wanted to prove it. I wanted to win.
Of course, there are no winners in those scenarios, only losers.
Rapport was shattered, romance was gone… And I went home in my hand’s company soon after :).
3. Undermining Their Opinions
Even worst than “winning” by one’s ideas merits is trying to win attacking other people’s ideas.
It’s the worst because, for many of us, there’s little distinction between our opinions and ourselves. Especially in people with a fixed mindset, the two are exactly the same.
So if your goal is rapport, don’t attack, undermine or, God forbid, ridicule their ideas. Because you are attacking, undermining and ridiculing them.
Example 1 – Date Conversation
This year I had one of the most remarkable dates I have ever had.
She wanted to become a shaman. She had occult talents, was in touch with otherworldly entities and she was sure aliens live among us. Or so she professed.
Of course the dumber side of me wanted to debate that. And to possibly prove it wrong (argh!).
But thanks God this time I knew better.
I told myself I was going to learn from this and stay nonjudgmental, warm and supportive. So I got curios. I inquired, dug deeper, shared my local stories of occult and.. Rapport and bonding sore.
It ended well ;).
Example 2 – Seth Godin VS Gary Vaynerchuk
Watch Seth Godin conversing with Gary Vaynerchuk.
Any “rational” person would agree 100% with Seth Godin. And we could argue he “won” the argument when he refused to give in -stronger frame- and put science on his side. Gary was never really able to challenge that.
But the conversation victory comes at the price of destroying rapport.
4. Using NO a Bit Too Often
A “NO” is a conversation stopper and one of the most powerful verbal weapons.
It communicates you fully disagree, that you know better, and that the two of you are miles apart (possibly he’s miles behind).
Example 1: Authoritarian Power Move
A “NO” is also often a power move in the sense that it gives power and authority to the person using it. At the price, of course, of rapport and harmony.
I’ll give you a real life example.
A friend of mine wanted to recruit me for a start up she wanted to launch. We had a brief phone conversation, which went a bit like this:
Her: (…) And this is my great idea!
Me: Oh that’s cool, seems like mobile marketing will be key to get traction
Her: No, it’s more about partnerships..
Me: Yeah, that too I guess, both are important. Germany would be a great market to start with
Her: No, I want to start with..
You will notice I don’t answer with “OK” because that would be an admission of submission. It would communicate that I “OK” her correction and submit to her authority, neither of which was my intention.
I accept instead, confirm what she says as it was also my opinion and then defend and raise my opinion adding both are important. And then I move to another topic to take the pressure off and avoid an escalation.
But again she keeps “NO-ing” me -probably 3 times during the conversation-. With every NO she communicates that:
- I have no idea what I’m talking about;
- She knows more;
- She’s the one calling the shots.
Albeit I don’t fully remember the exact words of that conversation I do clearly remember one thing: I didn’t wanna have anything to do with her project.
Example 2: Never Say NO to Compliments
A “NO” is particularly terrible when people reach out to you with a compliment, a gift or a peace-overture. It’s because in those times they are, in a way, either submitting to us or raising us up. And they expect a reward.
When a “NO” is the answer instead, it punishes us when we least expect it and we regret we even opened up (and possibly resent them for making us feel bad).
Note: whether or not he didn’t believe in the compliment, replying that way feels like a middle finger answer. It communicates that I don’t get what he’s doing and I don’t know what I’m talking about.
And, second layer, if I don’t get what he’s about, it also implies I’m not close to him.
What to do then? You ALWAYS accept the compliment, even when they make no sense to you.
Example 3: There’s no NO in Sales
If you’re in a sales, you should totally ban “NO” from your customers’ conversations. Even when it’s called for.
For example when I was selling a complex product I was often faced with people not understanding it. And they would repeat back to me some nonsensical blabber.
The first reaction would be to say “NO” and correct them. Resist that urge: you never want to break rapport with customers. Let them finish instead, maybe even nod as they speak.
And then you say:
YES, it’s a bit like that. Basically.. (repeat your pitch in simpler form)
or if they were far off the mark:
-Wow, that would actually be a great idea for a new product. This product here… (repeat in simpler words)
-Yeah, that’s a bit like what X company does, they’re cool, what we do.. (repeat in simpler words)
Basically, whatever they say, never answer NO. If they almost got it, compliment them and then add more information.
If they are far off the mark and you can’t think of anything good about what they said, blame yourself.
5. Not Going Deep
The deeper we discuss things, the deeper we feel like we connect with someone. Especially if it’s deep and personal. That’s the feeling that “you’re meant for each other” with a romantic partner.
The best conversationalists never stop at the surface for too long. They prod and dig until they get to the core of who their conversation partners are.
Staying on the surface is a particularly heinous conversation mistake when people actually want to get deep with you:
Example 1 – Kicking Back to Surface
When people start talking, that’s a great thing. Often it means they’re about to go deep and open up. That’s when you let them speak and encourage to go further.
When instead you interrupt them, change topic, start sharing your opinion or crack a joke you are basically forcing them back up to the surface.
They feel not only like you don’t get them, but also that you don’t care.
And it’s an immediate, huge disconnect.
Note: this is exactly what Gary does here. Seth Godin wants to make important points he cares about. He wants to properly address the questions coming from the audience. But Gary keeps stopping him.
Vaynerchuk is forcing Seth Godin to stay superficial. And he resents him for that.
rapport or honesty?
You might have noticed that acting on these conversation mistakes requires you to pause the most controversial sides of your character. Or to dig deeper in yourself to fish for different shades of your personality.
Indeed this is an article on rapport, and full or honesty and rapport do not always fully overlap.
But the two are not antithetic either.
Don’t fall for the lie of those lonely, frustrated few who peddle full honesty as their great quality. As they go around hurting people and picking fights all day they’re just showing rudeness and stupidity -with other more or less severe personality flaws-.
Indeed there’s enough overlap between honesty and rapport that you can have both. Both indeed are my “full on goals”.
It means that I will build rapport while both being myself and being as honest as possible. I will only stop when I know the truth will either hurt someone or ruin our relationships.
There are exceptions when it’s OK or advisable to say whatever you want to say and break rapport (and maybe hurting someone).
These are two of them:
Honesty Is Key In That Situation
In many situations honesty is more important than rapport. Some of them could be:
- The topic touches on a core value of yours
- You don’t care about rapport with a certain individual
- You just want to be honest, even if the whole room will look at you in disgust.
The last one is the most interesting. You should do it sometimes. It’s refreshing and it strengthens your spirit. Often, even when you say something shocking, something funny will happen. Nobody will attack you.
It’s because you show some social balls. And most people respect those who have the courage to do what they cannot do. And will also fear you a little bit.
Remember, refraining from full honesty should be a personal choice, not a group-imposed rule. Only cowards hide their whole lives
Tough Love Cases
The second exception is the so called “tough love”, which is the culture espoused by Ray Dalio in Bridgewater as it’s more conducive to improvement and better decision making.
I’ll be fully honest and risk rapport breaks and pain when:
- Unadulterated truth was requested (a request I always respect)
- I believe they can act on that truth
- We are very close (ie.: I know we’ll be close again soon)
The fantastic book Crucial Conversations explains indeed that you have nothing to fear in telling the truth when people know that you have the same objective and that you care about them.
Common Conversation Mistakes Summary
If we had to summarize the top conversation mistakes in one sentence, it would be this:
Put your ego in check. And then listen and care about your conversation partner.