6 Annoying Speaking Habits You Have, According to Science

Updated: Oct. 10, 2018

It's not about what you say: it's about how (and when) you say it.


You’re a Debbie Downer

Pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you expect to be disliked when meeting people, research shows you will probably project cold negativity and prove yourself right. Social optimism, on the other hand, works the same way: people who expect other people to like them will enter into conversation more positively and, often, leave the other person feeling the same way. This doesn’t mean you need to suppress your emotions all day, but consider that happiness and sadness are as contagious as a virus; if you wouldn’t greet a friend by sneezing in her face, don’t greet her with a sour mentality either. Here are 10 things you should never say over text or email.


You dominate the conversation

You don’t need Harvard neuroscientists to explain that getting a few things off your chest feels good—but you’d be surprised to hear how good. “Talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter—triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money,” the Wall Street Journal wrote of Harvard’s 2012 study. If you are depriving your friend of the joys of self-disclosure, you may as well be depriving them of a juicy hamburger. Don’t be a conversational narcissist; suspend your ego and give your friend a taste of that sweet, invisible burger. Here’s what good listeners do in daily conversations.


You correct people too often

According to FBI negotiators, a key tool in establishing rapport with someone is suspending your ego, or simply putting the other person’s desire to speak and be heard above your own. This can be as easy as not interrupting someone, not correcting her facts or grammar, and letting her know you’re listening, not judging. “Individuals who allow others to continue talking without taking their own turn are generally regarded as the best conversationalists,” says FBI Behavioral Analyst Robin Dreeke. “These individuals are also sought after when friends or family need someone to listen without judgment. They are the best at building quick and lasting rapport.” Find out 15 things you should never say to your boss.


You say “you” instead of “we”

Chances are, if the pronoun you use most often in conversation is “you,” the person on the receiving end either feels bossed around, judged, or otherwise accused. On the contrary, couples who favor words that foster togetherness (“we,” “us”) instead to separateness (“I,” “you”) are proven to be happier, healthier, and more satisfied with their relationships. Happily, the “we” effect even works on strangers: inclusive pronouns have been shown to trigger instant feelings of positivity and familiarity. Don’t miss these 11 things you should never say to your family.


You end statements like questions

Uptalk—also known as “upspeak” or “high rising terminal”—is the Valley-Girl-influenced speech pattern of ending a declarative sentence with the rising intonation of a question. This can be, according to some, really annoying? In one study of 700 male and female executives, 85 percent viewed uptalk as an indicator of insecurity, 70 percent found it annoying, and 57 percent believed a person’s career could be hindered by it. The bias against uptalkers is undeniable, but easily countered: to sound more confident and authoritative, practice lowering your tone at the end of key sentences, like James Earl Jones proclaiming, “This is CNN.”

istock/Vesna Andjic

You talk too fast

Unless you’re the world’s fastest-talking person, speaking at a frantic clip does you few favors. Despite the thoughtfulness of your ideas talking too quickly can make you sound nervous, jumpy, or like you’re trying to sell something. A study of 1,380 telemarketer calls found that the ideal speaking rate is about 3.5 words per second (not too fast, not too slow) and punctuated by occasional pauses to prove you’re not a robot. Next, here are 12 things you shouldn’t tell your friends about your relationship.