Conversational Pitfalls

Avoid Common Conversational Mistakes


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People sitting on different sides of the conversation street

Language has a tendency to evolve over time and many phrases that started off sincere can change in meaning, immediately setting someone on edge. Many of these catch phrases are cultural, so this is something to be aware of as they will not always translate the same meaning. While working through an emotionally charged problem, you should be aware of phrasing and words that will most likely cause an immediate escalation in the conversation. During these conversations it is important not to place blame or imply it, but follow the rules of effective communication (Morpheus, 2008).

Knowing how to begin or to break the real issue to someone is a common problem and can set the tone for the whole conversation. Being upfront and respectful is as important as not springing the topic on your partner (Martinuzzi, 2013).

What are these bad catch phrases you're talking about?

People can feel bad when conversations go wrong

Right now you may be wondering what common phrases are being referenced or why they are so bad. Here is a breakdown of a few common phrases used in difficult conversations and why they may set us on edge.

"Let me be brutally honest with you…"
This phrase is usually viewed as a nice, euphemistic approach to breaking bad news. It does accomplish the goal quite well but it places the listener one-step down from the speaker. Introducing the topic this way can frustrate your partner and send the message that you know better than they do. This tactic can degrade the self-esteem of your partner and breed resentment (Gallagher, 2009). The history of this phrase rarely combines it with positive praise and will instinctively place your partner on the defensive. It is much more productive to try another approach such as validating your partner's thinking and then providing the points of your thinking such as, "I see your point on (insert subject here). May I share my thoughts on it?" (Gallagher, 2009)

"I hate to tell you this"
This phrase attempts to communicate personal feeling and empathy to your listener. Unfortunately due to overuse it tends to place the listener on defensive and make the speaker sound emotionless and without empathy. A better way to get your point across would be to reframe the information. Do not tell them what terrible mistakes they are making, but suggest better tactics to achieve the desired result. For example if your submissive is not performing a task to your satisfaction, provide them with more precise instructions (Gallagher, 2009).

"I understand"
This phrase has been misused to the point where it has come to mean "I don't care" to the average person. There are other ways to express the same sentiment without using that phrasing, such as acknowledging a person's feelings (Gallagher, 2009).

Real conversations matter

"I'm sorry"
Real and believable sincerity is what makes this a problem phrase. It is better not to use this term at all because even if you mean it, you're partner may not believe it for reasons of their own. Acknowledgment of their difficulties or feelings can be more effective (Gallagher, 2009).

This one little word can cause a significant amount of damage in a conversation because as soon as it is used, the listener knows something is going to be said that will not be in their best interest or something they want to hear (William, 2009). The average person usually feels that anything positive said before the "but" is negated and typically do not listen to anything after it (Hubpages Inc., 2013). You can try to remove this word by breaking your idea into separate sentences or by using "and" instead. It takes some training and time to make this adjustment, so do not be too hard on yourself when you start.

Final Thoughts

All of these pitfalls can be avoided with practice, being aware of them is the first step. Another thing to keep in mind is that your partner may have some phrases that trigger negative reactions for them specifically from previous relationships. It can be a huge help to your communication to find out what those may be or to inform your partner of any phrases that may trigger you in an argument.

Recommended Reading

These books have been read and reviewed by Keeping it Kinky and we recommend them as resources in the area of communication

Getting to Yes partial book cover
Getting to Yes
Kashiko | September 14, 2012
All about communication and negotiation without giving up what is really important to you
Read Getting to Yes Review
How to Tell Anyone Anything partial book cover
How to Tell Anyone Anything
Kashiko | September 14, 2012
How to navigate difficult conversations
Read How to Tell Anyone Review
Written September 21, 2012 | Updated April 25, 2015
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Article References

Gallagher, R. S. (2009). How to Tell Anyone Anything. New York: AMACON.

Hubpages Inc. (2013). Communication: but versus and. Retrieved 08 15, 2013, from Hubpages:

Martinuzzi, B. (2013, 03 25). 12 Tips for Handling Difficult Conversations. Retrieved 15 2013, 08, from Open Forum:

Morpheus. (2008). How to be Kinky: A Beginner's Guide to BDSM. Canada: Green Candy Press.

William. (2009, 10 20). Help your readers by avoiding the word "but" in 5 ways. Retrieved 08 2013, 15, from Social Improve:

Image References

Someone else's art deserves recognition! The images presented in this article were borrowed from the following places:

Header Image: | Retrieved April 25, 2015

Image 1: data:image/jpeg;base64,/9j/4AAQSkZJRgABAQAAAQABAAD/2wCEAAk | Retrieved August 15, 2013

Image 2: | Retrieved August 15, 2013

Image 3:| Retrieved August 15, 2013

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