College and University Blog

Profiles of a Conversational Offender: Understanding Appropriate Social Interaction


Conversation- An informal exchange of ideas by spoken words

As we grow into adulthood, we become more and more fixed upon our habits and idiosyncrasies, especially in conversation. While these “traits” may add to our character, the can also alientate us from people or positions. Many of us live our lives never realizing that the way we communicate in conversation can be the very thing that keeps us from progressing in the workplace, our social and political circles, and academic millieu.

For instance, think of someone you know or have been exposed to that keeps you socially at bay. If you see this person on campus and you instinctively avoid eye contact or turn the other direction, think to yourself why. Is it the way they make you feel in conversation? Do they talk too much or too little? Do they violate your personal space? What about them makes you fear interaction?

Profiles of Conversational Offenders

Not one person has a flawless conversational track record. We are all guilty of overstepping conversational social cues without even knowing it.

Other’s mistakes can be a powerful learning tool so please read carefully. Do you fit a profile?

The Philosopher

This offender takes the simplest of points to a far galaxy of thought and reason. Every detail of conversation is attached with some sort of philsophy. Talking with a Philosopher is extremely aggravating if you just want to have a simple, mindless conversation.

The Pontificator

The Pontificator or “Speech Giver” will turn a basic conversation into an hour long, can’t-pull-away-from discussion. No one wants to hear a speech unless they’re at a political convention…and not even then.

The Interjector

In a world of conversational offenses, the Interjector is a felon and deserves a separate category. Not only do their interjections break up and distract the speaker’s flow of thought, their consistent interruptions show a lack of concern or courtesy to even show they are listening.

The Purposeless Detailer

“I love that shirt. Where did you get it?,” a question is asked. The Purposesless Detailer will respond, “Thanks. I got it at Target. It was 75% off so it made it $3.98, but they didn’t have my size so I had to search around to different Targets to find my size. When I found one my size, I wanted to make sure it fit so I decided to try it on, but the dressing rooms were being remodeled. Then, the lady at the checkout didn’t believe it was $3.98…”

“Thanks. I got it at Target,” would have sufficed.

The High Judge

This offender doesn’t say much but communicates plenty through their non-verbal cues—a furrowed brow, a frown, squinted eyes, raised eyebrows. They are judging you, the things you are saying, and the way you are saying it, all to form their own conclusion about YOU! In the end, they really didn’t hear a word you said.

The Distractor

If you are conversing with a Distractor, be prepared to stop and wait your turn in the middle of your sentence. This multi-tasking offender manages to have conversations with other people, a cell phone, and themselves all during their conversation with you.

The Interrogator

Asking questions in conversation is acceptable; however, twenty painstaking, squirm-induced personal questions at rapid fire speed is an emotional work-out to the other person. While the Interrogator is the most caring and interested in your problems than the rest, the Gestapo ended with Nazi Germany.

The Show Boat

This offender has stuff, lots and lots of stuff, but what fun is having stuff if you can’t gloat, brag, or show it off? A conversational encounter with a Show Boat will consist entirely of hearing about cool stuff that you don’t have.

The Drifter

The Drifter is my personal conversational flaw, among others, so I have special stake in this profile. This offender may seem completely engaged in what the speaker is saying, smile, nod their head, and respond appropriately, but does not hear a single word the speaker is saying. The tiny clues that they are not paying attention will be the lack of eye contact and slightly delayed responsiveness.

The Sidetracker

This offender can be completely engaged in a good conversation and then allow a random thought or environmental circumstance to dramatically shift the topic of conversation before the last one really concluded. The Sidetracker, however, can return to the last topic, they just need a gentle nudge.

The Repeater

With a Repeater you will hear a story two, three, maybe four times. They will tell it as if they have never told it before. The problem with the Repeater is that reminding them they told you the story already is offensive so they justify their mistake by continuing to retell the story.

The Incognizant Rehasher

This offender requires that the speaker rehash details in the story that weren’t important. The speaker says, “I went to the store today, and the bakery caught on fire.” The Incognizant Rehasher says, “So…why did you go to the store?”

The Corrector

This offender’s knack for consistently correcting the speaker’s speech by hanging on every little grammar error, pronunciation error, etc., that, correct or not, really makes no difference to the point of the story, becomes less than helpful but patronizing.

The Therapy Patient

Therapy Patients are the most emotionally draining conversational offenders on this list. While not taking away the importance of listening to someone’s hurts and problems, the Therapy Patient will take the generous listener to a whole new level.

The Sigher

The Sigher is the most outwardly rude of all conversational offenders, but they also give off the best social cues to follow. Their sighs are indications that they are uncomfortable, bored, or aggravated, etc. It is best for the speaker to work off the cue by bringing the conversation to a close and letting them go.

The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller, otherwise known as the “Sentence Finisher,” has the psychic ability to figure out what you are about say and say it for you before you get the chance.

The Egg Shell

Be careful. This offender will crack at the slightest remark. The Egg Shell takes everything the wrong way, and it become a constant personal battle at the end of the day to figure out what exactly was said that did the cracking.

The Grabber

This offender offends more than just conversation…