I wanted to write about something today which is very subtle, but can totally kill a conversation’s vibe:
Completing other peoples’ sentences.
A guy is talking to a girl and she’s telling a story:
Girl: “So after that I experience, I felt so… like….”
Girl: “Oh. No, actually liberated.”
People hate it when this happens to them – when someone tries to make logical leaps for them.
So why do we do this?
Well, it could be that we’re just talking to someone long-winded and want to end the conversation politely. But when that’s not the case, this behavior is a form of rapport seeking. A nasty little form of it.
What is the subconscious thought loop in our guy’s head here in the example?
“Wow, this girl is pretty interesting and charismatic. I want to show her that I empathize with her and am listening. I bet that after that experience, she felt afraid. I’ll say that.”
But what is going on for the girl? She notices that, rather than actually listening to her and being swept up in her experience, the guy is in his own head. He’s so eager for rapport that he’s willing to hazard a wrong guess about how she feels. So eager that he’ll interrupt her. And what an unwelcome introduction – it totally cuts off her story; not only does she have to correct him, but he’s shown that he doesn’t understand her at all.
I think we all do this from time to time. Recently, I’ve noticed two girls who I’m just not that into who do it to me a LOT, and it drives me up a wall.
And then I found myself subconsciously doing it at an important business meeting the other day…D’oh.
What’s the remedy? Simple – let people complete their stories. Don’t interrupt them to complete their sentences or make conclusions for them.