It’s always easier to be aware of another person’s conversational mistakes than our own. Your own mistakes are so habitual, so well-intentioned, they easily escape your notice. You are just being yourself, right?

By the word “mistake” I mean “something that doesn’t work;” a behavior that gets in the way of good communication.

Others see and hear your behaviors that you are unaware of. “You can’t see the label from inside the jar.” When other people make mistakes, you notice, and you can learn from these negative examples. (And, if you make a similar mistake, you can change your behavior.)

The mistakes I describe can occur during both social and business conversations. They are mistakes because they injure the integrity of the conversation by blocking its flow, creating frustration, or reducing understanding and satisfaction.

Here are six of the biggest ones:

1. Blabbermouthing
Talking too much, way out of balance. Going on and on without giving the other(s) their turn. The ones who hog the talk-channel soon frustrate others, who soon tune out the blabbermouth. Involved in their own monologues, blabbermouthers get some satisfaction from carrying on – even when they have lost the attention of their listener(s). (Some professionals suffer from the occupational hazard of this mistake – professors, clergy, salespersons and others who earn their livings with talk.)

2. Take-aways and me-toos
You begin a topic, and soon your listener grabs it away and opens a me-centered monologue. If you say, “I saw a great movie last weekend …” your listener and soon-to-be talker says, “Oh? I saw one, too …” and begins to describe their experience. You can’t complete your thought because it’s been high-jacked. (This is a very childlike behavior, and eventually it drives people away.)

3. Unsolicited advice
Some people are quick to give advice as soon as you mention a problem. Phrases like “Have you thought of … ?” and “Why don’t you … ?” pour quickly from their overflowing reservoirs of counsel.

Men seem especially prone to this tendency, although women are not immune from it. Also “professional know-italls” such as teachers, managers, administrators, and certain lawyers, ministers, and counselors. When giving advice to friends and other peers, the advice-giver assumes the higher status as an authority or even parenting role. That is irritating.

The remedy? It’s better to let a person finish describing their problem and then to ask “Are you asking for my opinion?” or “What alternatives have you thought of?”

4. Interrupting
Butting in before your partner has completed the thought. Usually this is done because the interrupters are impatient, or are afraid of not getting a chance to express their thoughts.
Many of these interruptions occur on TV talk shows when panelists hold opposing views. One begins and another soon butts in and competes with “overtalk.” Sometimes they even shout in order to get in the last word. (According to some TV producers, such interrupting and conflict creates exciting television. Like the old adage, “Let’s you and him fight!”)

You can observe this same pattern of conversation in many situations. At family gatherings, between co-workers, and, alas, between husbands and wives. Often occurs between sports fans, each of whom claims that “My guy is better than your guy.” (For earliest examples of interrupting behavior, observe sandbox play among boys. Who has the best toy? Who can throw farther? Who has the most friends? Whose dad can beat up the other dad?)

5. Contradicting
This is one of the ultimate conversation-blockers. Although direct disagreement is appropriate in structured debate, it is not helpful in social and professional conversations, which are best when mutual and collaborative. “I disagree with you” or “Yes, BUT …” are plentiful in many conversations, and often just a move in the “I’m right, you’re wrong” game. (If chocolate is right, must vanilla be wrong? Or just different?)

Instead of immediately contradicting, a more effective way is to listen to the ideas, check that you understand, and then offer your own ideas. “My viewpoint (or understanding or belief ) is different from yours. Let me explain.” When a person feels heard and understood, s/he is more likely to listen to and understand you when it’s your turn to express different ideas.

6. Stingy contributor
Some people listen and learn, take but don’t give. The “stinge” adds little or nothing to the conversation, not fresh energy, new information, humor, acknowledgement of others, other even humor that can lift a conversation. Such people like to “pick the brains” of others, but contribute little or nothing. They take few risks and, while others share personal experience, they remain cool and contained about personal matters. This cautious, protective style creates an out-of-balance relationship in which real trust is absent.

When you find you are becoming frustrated or annoyed in a conversation, there is a good chance that the someone is demonstrating one of these mistakes. When you see how these conversation mistakes cause problems, you can eliminate it from your own behavior.