There are unwritten rules for conducting conversations. If you repeatedly violate them you will be considered a bore. You will be shunned. Your career will be limited.
Many conversational rules are obvious: Don’t constantly interrupt. Acknowledge the statement you just heard rather than immediately changing the subject.
Others seem to be more obscure to many people: Don’t be sarcastic. Don’t talk about yourself constantly. Don’t try to watch TV or check your e-mail while pretending to simultaneously have a meaningful conversation.
Here’s my favorite rule. Don’t speak until you receive the signal that it is your turn to speak. What is the signal? The current speaker finishes speaking while making eye contact with you.
This rule applies in all types of polite conversations, including one-on-one, in small groups, in large groups, in formal meetings, in water-cooler conversations, in family dinners, in doctor-patient conversations, etc. and so on.
Note that I qualified that assertion with the modifier “polite.” The rule does not apply, for example, on Sunday morning TV shows featuring phony-know-it-all politicians and pundits who are apparently invited on the show mainly so they can entertain viewers by demonstrating to a national audience that they are bombastic loud-mouthed jerks.
If you are involved in a polite conversation or meeting and you want to speak next, you must catch and hold the eye of the current speaker and wait for him to finish. If you do not habitually do this, you are a bore. You are a conversational clod and everyone knows it – even the other bores. You will be resented and avoided. Your statements in the meeting will automatically be downgraded in importance. You will be undermining yourself.
You owe it to yourself to stop boring people. Do it now, today! Keep your mouth shut until and unless you get the signal!