You have probably experienced this frustrating but common conversation trap: You are telling a story to a person or a group, and someone either interrupts or chimes in on the heel of your story with their own tale which is either similar or many times even better than yours. But how often do you do this very same thing to others? It goes something like this: Someone is telling you a story and something they say jogs a similar experience in your memory and as soon as they pause to take a breath you reply, “Really? A similar thing happened to me…” and you proceed to tell your experience. It’s only been in my time reflecting on past conversations that I realize that when I am guilty of this, my comparisons are not forming a common bond, but rather verbally raining on the other person’s parade.

When we are telling someone a story or revealing something about ourselves, what we want most is to be heard. And this means focused eye contact, reactive facial expressions, questions, and two listening ears. It does not mean another person’s voice chiming in to tell you a story of their own–which turns into a “comparisation” rather than a conversation.

Starting a comparison is tempting because:

1. You are anxious to create a common bond with the other person; to show them that you have something in common with them.   However, you can create the strongest bond by listening and valuing what the other person is saying. Keep the spotlight on them. There will be time later to share our own stories.
2. You are trying to prove to the other person that you have value. For instance, in addition to being genuinely happy and interested in listening someone tell you about their fabulous vacation, you feel a need to share about your fabulous vacation. Telling our achievements, however, is not going to make someone value us. They will, however, value the person who listens intently to them.The next time you start a conversation, remember to “converse” and not “compare”. Because a true conversation will win out every time.