Nine Things it's Best Not to Say at the Beginning of a Conversation

There are people who can spoil a conversation with the first word they say. However, if you want to be an effective communicator and know how to successfully start up a conversation, there are certain tips that can help you.
Nine Things it's Best Not to Say at the Beginning of a Conversation

Last update: 25 September, 2021

If you don’t want to spoil a conversation from the start, there are certain things it’s best not to say. In fact, remembering certain phrases and expressions will allow you to build practical and, above all, enriching dialogues. For, as you no doubt know, there are too many people who use an aggressive style of conversation, effectively pinning you down right from when they first meet you.

Your reality can change in certain ways when you become a good communicator. For example, if you’re skilled at starting and continuing with a conversation, it reinforces your self-confidence. As a matter of fact, not only is your ability to reach agreements optimized but your self-esteem and self-vision are also enhanced.

Knowing how to start a conversation is just as important as knowing how to listen, transmit a message clearly, and be assertive.  In fact, starting a conversation is rather like knocking on someone else’s door and inviting yourself into their home, into their intimate and private space. Not only do you have to do it with respect, but you also have to capture their attention.

Let’s find out a bit more.

“Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”

-Plato-

Friends talking about the things best not to say at the beginning of a conversation

Things best not to say at the beginning of a conversation

There are some great ways to start a conversation. Equally, there are ways to spoil it. In many cases, those who introduce themselves in an unsuccessful manner aren’t always aware of their limited communication skills. These unskillful introductions are often due to emotional mismanagement.

There are those who get carried away by anger, impatience, or frustration. Furthermore, it’s worth noting that this aggressive way of entering into dialogue is characteristic of the narcissistic personality. The University of Iowa and the University of Texas conducted studies that highlighted this fact.

Conversational narcissism is the kind where the person focuses solely on themselves and they ignore their interlocutor. In a way, starting a chat that’s based only on their own feelings and needs (and never regarding others) has a lot to do with the narcissistic personality profile.

Let’s take a look at those things that it’s better not to say at the beginning of a conversation.

1. With all due respect…

“With all due respect, what you said a moment ago doesn’t make much sense. I have to say that I think…”. As you can well imagine, someone who starts talking to you in this way immediately puts you on the defensive.

As a matter of fact, it’s a form of sarcasm and an unkind style of starting a dialogue. There are many more ways to approach someone to tell them something specific, but it’s certainly best not to start this way.

2. I really shouldn’t be telling you this, but…

There are many people who approach you with this opening phrase and then later reveal some kind of secret or confidential information. You need to be clear, whoever uses these words is a gossip or is violating someone’s trust. They’re not to be trusted.

3. You won’t like what I’m going to tell you, but …

If someone says this to you, you feel a sense of alarm and, after a while, you also go on the defensive. That’s because you know they’re going to say something “bad” to you and you must prepare yourself.

There are many ways to criticize someone, but this isn’t the best way. Instead, you could make use of other examples. For instance, How are you? How was your day? If you have time I just wanted to talk to you about something. I really respect and understand your position, but I think maybe it would be a good idea to…

4. I want to talk to you …

This is the kind of opening gambit that the high school bully would use. For this reason, it’s certainly best to avoid it.  In fact, if you’re angry with a particular person, there are plenty of other ways of introducing the topic. 

5. No offense or anything, but I think…

When someone addresses another person with the phrase “no offense or anything” they’re already being offensive. Indeed, communication is such a subtle and delicate dynamic that words, tone, and expression can be extremely painful weapons. Therefore, try to avoid these kinds of conversational openers.

6. Look, IMHO…

No opinion is humble. Opinions are always loaded with value and seek to expose reality.  Therefore, starting a conversation in this way creates some concern. In fact, these types of opening lines are typical of manipulative personalities.

Man talking about the things best not to say at the start of a conversation

7. I know it’s none of my business, but…

This is another line that might fill you with dread. Indeed, like the rest of the things that are better not to say at the beginning of a conversation, it generates the same feeling: that of threat. Even fear.

8. We haven’t talked for such a long time, I think you’ve been avoiding me

The person saying this may want to include a touch of humor in their conversation. However, this technique is neither polite nor suitable for initiating a dialogue. In fact, it’s always best to start a conversation by avoiding personal and disturbing allusions like this one.

9. I have to be honest with you

“Hello, how’s everything? Look, I have to be honest with you …” This way of starting a dialogue will instantly fill you with concern. That’s because we all know that when someone wants to make a show of sincerity (and warns us about it) their message ends up being aggressive.  Therefore, this is something that should always be avoided.

Communication processes are highly complex. However, with a little empathy, good work, and common sense, you can achieve harmonious and enriching experiences. Those in which these types of expressions will never appear.

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  • Ferguson, Sherry Devereaux (March 2014). Communication in everyday life : personal and professional contexts. Lennox Terrion, Jenepher, 1963-. Don Mills, Ontario, Canada. ISBN 978-0-19-544928-0. OCLC 861207333
  • Trenholm, Sarah, 1944- (2013). Interpersonal communication. Jensen, Arthur, 1954- (7th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Vangelisti, Anita & Knapp, Mark & Daly, John. (1990). Conversational narcissism. Communication Monographs – COMMUN MONOGR. 57. 251-274. 10.1080/03637759009376202.