What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 102: Assuming Intentions, Talking Too Much, Referring to Inside Jokes, and Interrupting

Exploring more unspoken rules of conversation, since What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101.

In this second installment of revisiting what we already know about communicating in North American culture, I’m taking it to the next level, peeling back the first layer to discover even more hidden (and less obvious) elements of being a good conversationalist and being considered a friendly (and normal) person.  And alas, here are more unspoken rules.

Don’t assume a person’s intentions by saying “you probably…” Though I assign “cliché status” to the joke “you know what happens when you assume…”, there is so much validity in it.  People usually don’t want to feel like they are being “figured out”.  So to assume that someone is not trying hard enough at something, for example, may not fair well.  Some people are slower learners but solid performers, and even better teachers once they do learn.

Refrain from using the phrases “it’s complicated” or “to make a long story short” more than once a month. If you do, there’s a good chance you talk too much, or say use too many words to tell a story.  If so, the listeners are often not fully listening to what you say, as they are really just thinking “get to the point already”.  If you find yourself about to say one of those phrases, stop yourself for a moment, long enough to think, “Okay, tell them the ‘edited for time’ version of this story, using 1/3 of the details as you’re used to”.  Then act accordingly.

Shorter stories help the listeners to become involved in a conversation with you, instead of it becoming a one-way conversation.  Telling stories is a good thing, just remember that if you preface them with “it’s complicated” or “to make a long story short”, you’re taking too long to tell them.

Never start a conversation off with “Did You Know?” unless you have already verified the facts. (Click that title to read more.) People who make a habit of this phrase typically follow it with urban legends and unchecked myths.  Therefore, their listeners tend to take them less seriously, especially when the listener immediately looks up their story on Google or Wikipedia.  Surprisingly, even the story how “granddaddy long-legs spiders are one of the most poisonous spiders in the world, yet they can’t hurt you because their fangs are too small to puncture you” is not accurate.  They can bite you, their poison does get into your bloodstream, but the venom does not affect human the way it affects their prey, such as Black Widow spiders.  Humans have immunity against daddy long-legs’ venom.  Check it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pholcidae

No inside jokes. If you find yourself referencing an inside joke with one or more people (but not all) in a group, take the time to briefly explain it to the uninformed.  Otherwise, you’ll end up excluding people, which will cause them to think that you’re cliquey, that you already have enough friends in your circle.  Most importantly, make sure you never say “you wouldn’t understand”.  Instead, help them understand.

Interrupting a Person Then Never Returning Back to that Point in the Conversation. It’s amazingly how many grown adults never understood the importance of not interrupting a person when they’re talking to someone else.  However, there are times when you must interrupt a person real quick to tell them something crucial, but this is not offensive and is completely redeemable when you say “I’m sorry, you were saying that (insert where they left off) ”.

What Not to Say If You Want People to Like You 101

Exploring the unspoken rules of conversation.


As an avid fan of clear communication and healthy human relationships, I have made myself overaware of the common courtesies of speaking in North American culture.  The problem with being so sensitive to the unwritten rules is that it can be much easier to become annoyed when other people break these rules.  Yet still, these rules exist.  Until now, they have remained invisible- but it’s time for a review of what we already know and hopefully live by.

Knowing when not to talk to a person. It’s not so much a “not before I’ve had my coffee” situation, as it is that many people (even if they are indeed “morning people”) do not enjoy engaging in conversation for the first hour of the day- especially if it involves hearing petty stories involving pet problems or car trouble.  Also, if a person seems quiet like they may be upset or stressed, do not say “Well, what’s wrong with you?!”  Instead, politely ask them if they want to talk about it.  If they say no, then say, “I’m here if you need me” and don’t talk to them until they talk to you.

Knowing what not to say. Refrain from pointing out obvious cosmetic flaws: recent weight gain (this includes pregnancy), hair loss, acne, scars.  The person may not ever forget your comment if it involves any topic like those.  They may never refer to you as a “nice person” again after that- but instead, you’ll be forever engrained on their “rude” list.

Knowing how to have an opinion yet not preach.  Many people are into healthy lifestyles these days, being much more aware of organic eating.  When asked by someone about your own lifestyle choices, simply answer their questions.  Only continue the conversation from there if they sincerely show interest.  Do not debate with them or become their “food judge” by saying, “Wow, you’re actually gonna eat all those carbs?” as they walk by with a big bowl of spaghetti.

Knowing how to be positive. No one likes a whiner.  While the poor economy and the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis are common knowledge and therefore make easy topics, avoid initiating a conversation about them.  Look for ways to “make a person’s day” by what you say instead of simply adding to the noise.  You’ll stand out, in a good way.  Needless to say, for more reasons that one, please never get caught saying, “I got a case of the Mondays!”

Knowing how to actually compliment someone. Make sure a compliment is truly a compliment.  If there is a casual criticism thrown in there, it voids out the positive vibes.  Like this: “I really like that purple shirt you’re wearing, even if it makes your skin look a little pale.”  Not cool.

These starters are only the tip of the iceberg.  But they are real reasons why some people are “good with people” and others aren’t.  Either way, good communication is a learned skill- it’s just that some people are more observant than others.

Manspeak, Volume 5: Movement

There are several obvious things that men are universally drawn to: women, sports, food, and watching bloody movies.  And then there are some that are less obvious, but just as common:  made-up handshakes and insulting/weird nicknames for each other, lying around for a good solid hour when we get home from work everyday, and not noticing little details like the pillows on the couch being out of place.


And here’s another one that is rarely noticed or acknowledged: Men are wired to want to help people move.  A few weeks ago I helped my good friend and neighbor Dave move to a rental apartment as he and his wife are in the process of building their first house.  I was expecting to see just a few more of our friends there.  Instead, there were about 20 of us there that Saturday morning.


As I run in my neighborhood, there have been several instances in the last few weeks where I encountered people who needed help moving a new TV or a shelf from their car into their house.  They saw a sweaty guy running laps and assumed I can handle the job.  I just hope they didn’t mind their TV smelling like sweat.


I have never been bothered by anyone who has everyone asked me to help them move.  In fact, in a way it’s almost an honor to be recruited:  There are unspoken, underlying, suggested compliments which translate to “You’re a strong guy/I need your strength/you are needed/you have what it takes/not just anyone can do this job for me, but you can”.


It doesn’t require a lot of strength or skill from a man.  But it does require a man who’s willing to forgo sleeping in on a Saturday morning, showing up in a cheesy t-shirt with sleeves cut off exposing his random bicep tattoo.  And while females are definitely capable of helping a person move, it’s a calling that men instantly respond to.  Like the same magnetic force causing men’s fists to want to punch Spencer Pratt in the face, it also draws them to pick up an end of the couch and cautiously walk backwards towards the truck.


Deprived of using our able bodies in the modern work force (most of us sit in front of a computer all day), our male ancestors actually “worked” for a living.  They got a daily workout by farming and building the cities we now live in.  Life in air conditioning is nothing to complain about, but there is the lack of physical stress that makes a person desire to actually use their muscles; hence gym membership and hobbies involving sports.


Men must move for things to happen.  Whether it’s moving off the recliner and involving himself with his family, or moving his family to where he can find a better job to provide for them.  Maybe it all goes back to the action figures we had as kids.  We didn’t mimic family life the way our sisters did with Barbies and baby dolls.  Our GI Joes, Ninja Turtles, and Star Wars action figures were on a mission.  To kick some bad guy butt.


Men are action figures.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com


Star Wars