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Trouble making conversation: Why it happens

By Gretchen Vierstra, MA

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Plenty of people don’t love making conversation, especially small talk. Some think they’re “bad” at it. Some are shy. But as long as they pick up on social cues, follow what people are saying, and talk in a way that makes sense, most do just fine.

Not everyone has those skills, however. Some people really do struggle with talking to others. This trouble with making conversation can have a big impact on self-esteem. It can also make it hard to fit in and make friends. And it can make people targets for bullying.

For kids, trouble making conversation can be a matter of development. Kids develop at different rates, and some just need a little more time. Other reasons both kids and adults might struggle to make conversation can be: 

  • Anxiety

  • Impulsivity

  • Being slower at processing  

  • Trouble with social skills

  • Trouble with language skills

Knowing the reasons behind trouble making conversation can help you figure out the best strategies for support. 

Dive deeper

Trouble with social skills

Everyone forgets social rules or misses social cues once in a while. But when people have trouble with social skills, it can happen a lot. They may not know the unspoken social rules of talking with other people. Or they may not naturally pick up on other people’s body language and tone of voice. This makes it hard to know how someone feels about what another person said.

Trouble with social skills can show up in different ways. When kids and adults have trouble with social skills, they might: 

  • Not know when it’s time to stop talking

  • Tell jokes at the wrong time

  • Interrupt

  • Ask inappropriate questions

  • Take over or withdraw from the conversation

Learn more about when kids develop social skills and what causes trouble with social skills

Trouble with language skills

Many of us sometimes use the wrong words or say things that don’t make sense. But people who do that a lot may be struggling with spoken language, whether they’re doing the talking or the listening.

They may have trouble finding the words they want to use — or using them in the right way. They might also have a hard time processing what other people are saying.

Learn more about why kids struggle with finding the right word , or word retrieval. And read about language disorders that cause trouble with using and understanding language .

Next steps

With practice and support, both kids and adults can get better at making conversations. Learn more about the social rules and social cues that help guide interactions. 

Parents and caregivers: Talk with your child’s teacher about what you’re seeing, and find out what’s going on in the classroom. You can even request a free evaluation at school .

Educators: It’s important for families and educators to work together. Reach out to families to share what you’re seeing and what can help. 

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom