When You're Better At Group Conversations Than Talking One-On-One

Many people say they have more trouble with group discussions than one-on-one conversations. There are a few common reasons you might feel this way:

(Obviously all these issues are more pronounced in bigger groups. Most people are going to have an easier time with a polite four-person discussion at a quiet coffee shop than seven drunk people all blurting out jokes at a pub.)

It takes certain traits to thrive in group conversations. You need to be confident enough to talk with more people paying attention to you. You have to know how to good-naturedly fight for your speaking time. You need to be able to read the mood of the group and adjust accordingly. You have to be tolerant of the occasional annoyances of everyone shouting over each other or showing off. If you don't currently have those abilities, group conversations can leave you feeling nervous and clammed up, overlooked and excluded, drained and overwhelmed, bored and checked out, or irritated and resentful.

You don't need to deal with those factors in one-on-one conversations, so many people find them easier. They know they more or less have the other person's attention. The content can get more in-depth or personal. They don't feel on the spot to impress a whole audience. If they want to try to steer the interaction in a particular direction, they know four people won't try to change the subject two seconds later. Unless they're talking to someone in a noisy, over-stimulating bar, they know they'll be able to hear them and attend to their body language.

So that's the standard line of reasoning for why, if they had to pick, many people prefer one-on-one interactions. However, some people say they do okay in bigger discussions and feel lost when it's just them and a single other person. They may even feel like they're weird for being more comfortable in groups, when they know most people feel the opposite.

Reasons some people find group conversations easier

What to do if you have a harder time with one-on-one conversations

If you have trouble with one-on-one conversations there are a lot of areas where you may be struggling, so I can't tell you how to fix things in a concluding paragraph or two. This site has an entire section on making conversation, and a dozen or more of its articles may apply to you. Similarly, if your anxiety and insecurities are holding you back when you chat to people one on one, a bunch of the articles in the section on shyness and self-confidence may help.

The main thing you should do is try to take a closer look at what aspects of one-on-one conversations are hard for you. Rather than having a vague sense that you're not good at them, try to nail down what the exact challenges are. Is it that you...

Again, that's only a handful of examples of why someone could find two-person conversations tricky. Whatever your particular issues are with them, you can figure out what they are and make improvements.

Also, think about which of your group conversation skills and strengths you could carry over to your one-on-one interactions, to make them feel a bit more manageable. For example, if you do well in groups by playing a role, could you find one for two-person conversations that fits you, like being a good listener who wants to learn about the other person? If you're good at telling stories and entertaining everyone, you could use that ability here and there to help keep your one-on-one discussions going?

Finally, ask yourself if there are any scary or difficult aspects of one-on-one conversations you could gradually get used to by doing them in groups first, where you feel more relaxed. (I realize you can't do this with everything. Like you can't get used to dealing with awkward silences on your own when another group member can always fill them). For example, if you're hesitant to give personal details about yourself for fear of being judged, you may find it that little bit easier to initially share them in a larger discussion. Most people probably find it harder to open up in front of extra people, but if you find it less intense, begin from there.