Seven Deadly (Conversation) Sins

storm trooper see no evil

Did you listen to extremely entertaining and informative This American Life last weekend?  I heard most of it while I was driving around town running errands (and listening to them on headphones while in stores, etc) and then re-listened to the podcast this week while I was going to/from work.  The topic was boring conversation and the seven topics you should never talk about in a social setting.  Obviously, if you are asked a direct question, go for it, but if you are at a gathering of people, these seven topics should be avoided because, frankly, no one cares:

1. Your period
2. Diet
3. Your health
4. How you slept
5. Your dreams
6. Route talk
7. Money

As we are entering the holiday party season, it may be good to hit ‘refresh’ on your conversation skills.  It is long been understood that religion and politics are not good topics to bring up in social settings because it could cause discomfort and conflict in others, but these seven topics are really more about being boring and self-indulgent.  It is really more about not making the topic that you talk about you.  We have all experienced being in conversation one-up-off with someone who has a personal story that is just a little bit more intense than your story and they top your story with theirs.  It is boring and annoying and you leave the conversation thinking that the person is no one with whom you want to cultivate a friendship.  Don’t be that person.

1.  Your Period.  Why would you think that anyone wants to hear about that?  No one cares.

2.  Your Diet.  If you are on a weight loss plan or are a vegan or gluten intolerant, don’t go into detail.  No one cares.

3.  Your Health.  If you have a cold, it is bad form for your to even be attending a social event, let alone talking about your cold.  I would say that anything less than cancer no one cares.

4.  How You Slept.  This topic is pretty much a conversation stopper.  You slept well, you slept poorly, there is nowhere to go from there and no one cares.

5.  Your Dreams.  Talking in length about your dreams is a lot about showing people your extensive collection of vacation photos:  they weren’t there and they don’t care.

6.  Route Talk.  A retelling of your choice of streets and the traffic on those streets is not interesting to anyone.  No one cares.

7.  Money.  It is widely understood that talking about money is crude and vulgar.  Talking about how much money you make or how much your paid for things is self-indulgent and unless you are directly asked, no one cares.

Obviously, the height of good etiquette is not pointing out others shortcomings.  Basically, it is rude to tell people they are being rude.  This is a self-governing list to bring awareness to your own topics of conversation.  If you find yourself in a conversation that is not entertaining to you, it is well within your ability to change the topic to something mutually interesting.  If the person brings it back to a self-indulgent topic, take a mental note, and find a way to extract yourself from the conversation.

There are times when letting self-indulgent conversation topics occur are in your own best interest.  When you are first meeting someone and it is important that it goes well, cultivating a line of conversation that allows the person to talk about themselves is acceptable.  I recently read an article called 8 Conversation Hacks That Make People Like You and there were a few that really helped me fine tune my conversation skills with people I have just met and with whom I really want to make a good first impression:

  • Invite People to Share About Their Lives.  Most people enjoy talking about what they are knowledgeable about and everyone know a lot about themselves.  Ask questions that encourage a bit of bragging.
  • Wait for Your Turn to Talk.  Do not interrupt. I have found that if you are not finding a natural break in the conversation, the other person will eventually need to take a breath.
  • Request Advice.  Not even advice, just confirmation.  It could be as simple as requesting affirmation of what you have said.  But asking advice will make the other person feel that their opinion is of value.

But most importantly, you should listen to the episode because it is hilarious, follow the links below, grab the podcast or listen to it right here:

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