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Techniques > Conversation techniques > Conversational Traps > Irrelevancies

Description | Example | Discussion | See also



A common conversational method is to say things that are irrelevant to the conversation or are of no real value the other person. We talk in order to talk, to be heard, but not to add anything really useful to the conversation. 

Typical irrelevant talk includes:

  • Saying the obvious, that others already know.
  • Describing what is in front of you, that others can see too.
  • Returning to something that has already been discussed.
  • Saying whatever is on your mind, no matter how irrelevant it is to the current conversation.
  • Telling what you are doing, no matter how banal.


It's raining.

I had fish for dinner last week.

In know I already said this but Jim's been a problem recently.  


We talk with others often just to assert our identity. By getting a reaction, our existence is affirmed. Yet sometimes we can think of little to say that contributes to the conversation, particularly when we are seeking to talk rather than listen. So saying anything seems better than saying nothing.

Mobile communications and social media have exacerbated the need for constant conversation. When your friends are with you wherever you go, then the talk never stops and it is easy to run out of interesting things to say.

Irrelevancies can be useful in situations where everyone is happy to talk about irrelevancies in order to sustain the human contact. In practice many conversations are like this. The conversation is about nothing in particular, yet all parties are enjoying it. Such small talk is more about the human side of interacting. It can be heard everywhere and may be noted not only through the minor subject matter but also the

Irrelevancies are often accepted as a normal part of conversation, particularly in some social groups. Yet they fail when they become an irritation, which the speaker may not notice when they are in their own heads, talking and not watching.

Some more constructive alternatives when you have little to say include:

  • Pausing, giving space for them to talk.
  • Asking a question, prompting them to say something.
  • Acknowledging or praising what they have said or done.
  • Excusing yourself to go and do something or speak with others.

See also

Opening the conversation

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