Common Conversation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Have you ever shown up at a job interview and not known what to say? Ever had to make friendly conversation with an important client or colleague and been at a loss for words? Of course you have- we ALL have!

One woman who has navigated these obstacles and mastered the art of the conversation is NBC Veteran and Emmy Award winning journalist, Jane Hanson.

For close to 30 years, Jane has interviewed everyone from U.S. Presidents to people on the street (and she happened to be the anchor of Today In New York when I started out as reporter for the show!)

Informed, warm, direct and always charming- Jane has truly learned the tricks for building instant rapport and getting people to open up- be it on-camera or in the elevator.

To get the secrets to conversation etiquette "do's" and "don'ts", we headed to NYC to sit down with the pro and do what she does best…chat.


When it comes to first meetings, most of us tend to talk a lot more about ourselves than listen. This is often out of nerves or a desire to be interesting or entertaining. Jane emphasizes that this is a no-no. Instead, look for things that might be of interest to the person you're talking with and use them to open up the conversation. Notice a baseball on their desk and ask about it. If they are wearing a colorful brooch, ask them where they got it from. Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. It's that simple.

Jane's advice:

Don't talk too much about yourself on initial meetings.

Do ask more about others. Look around for clues for conversation openers.


For many of us, walking into a job interview feels like walking into a death trap. We get that sick feeling in the pit of our stomach and those charming sweaty palms (perfect for shaking hands, not!). But it doesn't have to be this way. We figured if Jane can stay calm on LIVE TV, perhaps there were some tips we could learn.

Jane believes that a lot of the nervous energy stems from a lack of research and going into a meeting unprepared. Her secret to beating the nerves is to fully research the person and company you're meeting with. With online search engines able to reveal practically what your interviewer ate for breakfast, there's no excuse to go in blind.

Jane's advice:

Don't go to any interview unprepared.

Do research your interviewer.


Instead of going into a job interview and treating it like an audition, take the pressure off and think of it as a place to practice. Don't worry so much if you don't get the job, see it as a learning process for the next interview.

Jane's Advice:

Don't stress.

Do see each interview as practice- taking that pressure off will help you shine.


We've all said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, to the wrong person- and that was just this week! Sure it can be embarrassing but it's also very human and normal.

Jane believes that owning up to a mistake is a much better direction to go than covering up. Don't dwell on it, admit it and then move on. Done!

Jane's Advice:

Don't make excuses or brush over mistakes hoping they will go away.

Do own up to your errors, apologize and get on with it.


When it comes to the best advice Jane has ever been given- it's all about paying attention. Jane highlights how not listening is a problem not only as a journalist, but also as a person navigating everyday life and relationships. If you find yourself in a difficult conversation make sure you really listen to what's being said for clues as to how to respond. Most misunderstanding comes from spending too much time talking and not enough time listening.

Jane's Advice:

Don't blabber on hoping that they will understand you. Eventually.

Do really listen to what they are saying. Often people will give you the answers you're looking for if only you would be quiet long enough to hear them speak.