Pet peeve - Failure to include people in conversations.
How could this meal have been better? If you're ever in a situation like this, how can you make everyone feel more at ease?
- Pay attention to cues. When an outsider began talking to an insider about their hometown, it was a cue that they were looking for a way to interject themselves. Make space for them.
- Just plain listen. I see this all the time - a "listener" so eager to get to a pause so they can jump in and tell their story. That's not listening. That's timing. The speaker is usually aware that this is going to happen. They rush through their story, merely trying to get it out before they get interrupted. That's no fun.
- Be sensitive. I don't mean this in the sense of picking out topics that are lovey dovey rainbows and cute puppy dogs. Rather, you should be sensitive to the identity and feelings of the people in the conversation. For example, while gossip is a whole different bag of worms, being sensitive means that you don't gossip in such a way that puts other conversational participants in a tight spot. Or, for another example, don't go on and on about your big new house if some people in the group may be having a hard time paying their rent. Try to put yourself in other people's shoes, and choose topics accordingly.
- Don't be boring. Good conversations are engaging. People laugh. They smile. If you've been monopolizing the conversation; if it's a one-on-one in the middle of a table of 6; if no one is making eye contact, chances are good that others are bored. Change the subject or give someone else a turn.
Remember, practice makes perfect. Not all conversations are going to soar, and that may not be the fault of the conversationalists at all. Chemistry matters. But we can all try to do just a little bit better. You have nothing to lose, and maybe new friends to gain.