Understanding Conversational Problems

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  • 0:01 Conversational Problems
  • 0:37 Conversation Prevention
  • 2:00 Conversation Repair
  • 3:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore some of the common issues that arise within conversations and discover how they negatively impact communication. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Conversational Problems

Look at all of these people communicating.


Isn't it nice to see that people still know how to just have a friendly conversation? Uh-oh. Except for these two.


These two people are definitely having some conversational problems. I know that usually we try to respect people's privacy, but I actually feel like we could do some good if we eavesdrop and try to figure out why these two are unable to communicate. Just remember that I am a professional, so don't try this at home - at least not on strangers.

Conversation Prevention

Off the bat, I can see that one major issue here is conversation prevention, or simply problems that keep a conversation from ever starting. Look at their body language - closed off, hostile. Through the use of nonverbal communication, how we communicate without speaking, these two are indicating to each other that they are unwilling to have a conversation. For there to be a conversation, we have to break down these barriers and allow verbal communication to occur.

Great, now that we've got them talking, they can begin a verbal conversation. However, there are still plenty of ways that a healthy conversation can be prevented at this point. There's one right there.

A conversational disclaimer is a strategy to present information in a less personal or less direct manner. There's another one. All of those sentences where someone begins by stating something negative, then completing that action, those are conversational disclaimers. More examples include 'I'm not great at directions, but I think you should turn left' and 'Not to brag, but I'm the best at this.' Since they criss-cross positive and negative messages, those are also barriers to effective and direct conversation, so we want to try and avoid them.

Conversation Repair

So, one place where we often find conversational problems is in conversational prevention, just not letting a real conversation happen. Another commonly problematic area is in conversation repair, when people don't know how to fix a conversation that has been derailed. Obviously, these two aren't having a healthy conversation, but now it's not because they are preventing that conversation. It's because they don't know how to fix it. There's a good example of why.

Excuses are a very common part of broken conversations, in which the lack of communication is blamed on something or someone else. Sometimes this means blaming the difficulties of having a conversation on something completely unrelated as a way to avoid dealing with the actual issue. Sometimes it involves blaming the other person and not taking any responsibility yourself.

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