General Question

ninjacolin's avatar

How do you not seem like an asshole in conversation?

Asked by ninjacolin (14230points) March 30th, 2009

i’m a pretty self-conscious contributor to a discussion.

I always feel that I come off as some kind of “know it all.” I hate to think that anyone believes that I actually believe anything I’m saying too much.

I’m one of those people who always wants to learn a new way of seeing things and am VERY accepting of any and all challenges to my views. I enjoy being open to new ideas. One of my biggest pet peeves is actually having the last word in a conversation.. I tend to avoid it in real life or even preempt it.

On the other hand, I don’t want to seem like I have nothing to say.. because i feel I always do. Especially after processing other people’s opinions. And yes, i love to try to contribute a well thought-out opinion, for better or worse.

So.. what tips and suggestions do you.. er.. suggest so that i can know that I’m always making my not-so-wise-ass comments respectfully and appropriately?

This affects me a lot more in real life.. I tend not to explain myself sometimes. I sometimes come off as shy because of it and I resort to just listening rather than contributing because I feel that I may not be able to say what’s on my mind without offending someone. when i do try to speak, it feels like other voices overpower mine easily and i tend to just not finish my point in silent agony

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16 Answers

jo_with_no_space's avatar

By learning to genuinely listen.

prasad's avatar

Try talking politely as far as possible.
Keeping pace of talking a little slower than getting on to faster would also help.
Don’t deject anyone pointing at him/her, rather try like “It would be better…isn’t it?”
Don’t say “See, as I said…”

Proper choice of words can make substantial influence on the person with whom you’re talking.
However, voice, tone, and body movements/language are of more importance when talking eye to eye.

Let them have their say, listen patiently. And, only after they’ve finished you may start yours.
Interrupting others often make’em feel you’re arguing/opposing their view.

augustlan's avatar

Practice with a close friend who will be honest with you. Talk, talk, talk, about anything and everything with this friend. Ask him or her to let you know if you are being abrasive (or too quiet, or whatever your concerns are), and suggest another way to say it next time.

Bluefreedom's avatar

First of all, you sound like you have a lot of good things to say and your motivation level is high in wanting to contribute so you should work on not being overly self-conscious.

Just because you might come across to others as a ‘know-it-all’ but you are secure in your facts and knowledge, don’t let it discourage you. Get out there and offer your input for all of us who want to hear it and enjoy it. The more you communicate the easier it gets, the better you get at doing it, and you continually learn to communicate better with repetition and experience.

You mentioned that you are one that wants to learn new things and you are very accepting of challenges to your views. Major kudos to you on this as it says good things about you. Well, you’re in the right place then because Fluther members, from what I’ve seen, like to learn new things also and they’re certainly accepting of many different views.

Never be afraid to contribute. Exhibit your individuality and demonstrate your knowledge here. Be your own person. If someone has any heartache with your input, hopefully they will tell you about it in a civil manner. If they don’t, it’s not your fault. It might just be their inability to communicate better so don’t be disheartened.

YARNLADY's avatar

I always keep in mind that even when I make a comment that a dozen other people thank me for, one might take offense. It is the baggage of the listener that will determine the final outcome of your conversation, not the way you express it.

P.S. I almost didn’t answer this question because I do not use swear words and avoid them whenever possible.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

I’ve always thought your contributions were intelligent and thoughtful. (even if I disagreed with some of them) =D

But I know how you feel.. I’m often misunderstood in text as well.

qashqai's avatar

Listen without interrupting even if you do not agree.
If you are in a business meeting, take notes instead.

Then, gently show off your ideas.

Avoiding Interruptions is vital. Even if you stop someone to say a wise thing, he/she will always perceive as a kind of ‘interference’, and will not focus on the wise thing itself, but on your ‘interrupting her’. That way your ideas will not reach their potential, because they are seen for something they are not.

asmonet's avatar

Here’s a question for you, if you don’t want people to think you believe in what you’re saying, why bother speaking at all? If you have no conviction, you’re a waste.

People can smell insincerity a mile off.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Present an idea in the form of a “have you thought about____? and then wait for the response before listing out why that would be a good idea.

rooeytoo's avatar

Try NOT telling people what they say is BS like you just did to me in a recent question, that would certainly help me to NOT think you’re an asshole.

Amoebic's avatar

Text can be such a misleading medium. Maybe following up your statements with other cues, such as:

”...joking aside, there is…”
“In all seriousness, I suspect…”

Might help when you think your wise-assery may not be properly conveyed in comments. If you don’t truly believe the things you’re saying, but enjoy playing the devils advocate, by all means, say “I don’t know if I agree, but I’d like to play the devil’s advocate here for a sec. What if…” It. shows people you’re open to the idea of thinking on the other side of the fence, which can keep people from getting defensive because they know it isn’t personal for you.

It might also be helpful to avoid using definitive statements regarding the subject of your opinions. Saying “I believe, I feel, I think, I’ve noticed, etc. sets up the following information for the reader clearly stating that it’s merely your personal observation and not a re-stating of facts found elsewhere.

Absolute words like all, never, always, any, and every, for example, can come across as a know-it-all-ish, because they can easily be inaccurate regarding a subject of opinion. Try to be really careful when using these kinds of words because, though you may be using them to express how passionately you feel about the subject, they generally won’t hold up well in conversation (particularly debates). They can easily tend towards blanket statements.

Lastly – don’t get upset/defensive, don’t take it personally, and don’t beat yourself up too much over it if things didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Try to stay positive and open-minded, even if you disagree wholeheartedly. It’s just conversation, and you’ll have many chances in your life to improve your weaknesses and share your strengths.

Mr_M's avatar

Don’t open your mouth.

bob's avatar

Maybe your problem isn’t that come across as an asshole but that you don’t talk enough. From your description, it sounds as though your self-awareness and self-consciousness has paralyzed you and kept you from contributing to discussions. That’s your problem. Your problem is not that you come off as an asshole. You yourself say that you come off as shy!

If you want to fix that problem, you’re going to have to talk more. Stay self-aware and you’ll be able to tell when people think you’re being an asshole. Some people, like rooeytoo, will tell you outright! Adjust accordingly. But you’ve got to put yourself out there and assume that if you’re honestly contributing to a conversation, your personality and motives will be clear to your audience. If you’re a self-aware person who isn’t actually being an asshole, they’ll probably understand that most of the time.

In any case, you should talk and contribute. Maybe the people you’re talking to actually want to have their viewpoints challenged, just like you.

tinyfaery's avatar

Some people are going to think you are an asshole, others won’t. You cannot spend your life catering to other people.

ninjacolin's avatar

@asmonet said: “if you don’t want people to think you believe in what you’re saying, why bother speaking at all?”

this is a good point. however, i don’t mean that I’ve no conviction in what I’m saying. I just meant that I don’t want people to think that I would be offended by a contrary opinion.. that i’m opinionated and won’t listen after i’ve attempted to firmly state a thought using an absolute, for example. (as per Amoebic)

on that note, i don’t really play devil’s advocate often. i’m usually contributing from my heart.

thanks to all for these tips! :)
i’ll practice em!

uh.. @rooeytoo.. that’s bs! lol.. really, i mean.. k.. you have to see the humor in contrasts. your comment was so nice and open and polite and mine was an intentional contrast to that mood. it’s like building a delicate sandcastle and then smashing it to the ground. it’s the contrast in actions that was the focus, not the words so much. uh.. in this case, the focus of the joke was on being unapologetic in light of a thread where i’m asking for assistance you’re not allowed to actually be offended by that stuff, k? it’s a form of dark humor. not to be taken too seriously. just playin. promise.

SeventhSense's avatar

Do your best and f the rest. If you risk adding value in whatever form you’ll always attract varying opinions but no one ever built a statue to a critic.

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