Here are hot topics to consider avoiding before unintentionally starting an argument, challenging others, and making people uncomfortable. I am going to start with the three Cs, because before mentioning any topic, there is a way to address others that does not spark any ill will towards you to say the least. Having a clean slate when adumbrating these following subjects makes it more forgiving to the ears when easing into getting to know someone or making healthy small talk.
The Three Cs
- Criticisms – putting others down
These are things one should never mention!
Everyone has problems. To think that my problems are possibly bigger than others is spectacularly narcissistic. Also, adding to another individual’s issues puts them off from wanting to be around you.
If there is an elephant in the room, nothing needs to be said, because everyone feels the same. When another person makes a complaint, retort with something positive to look at the silver lining, and change the subject immediately and politely.
Everyone has judgements, and they are perfectly admissible. Judgement is a good thing, especially when it comes to positive ideas. Condemnation, however, is what is not welcomed in any social gathering, whether there are two people or two hundred twenty two. Criticisms are always to lift others up and see the bright side of all things.
Correcting someone is extremely inappropriate. You can know how to do things the right way, but others might not. The story of Queen Victoria’s etiquette that touched everyone was that there was a guest who came from abroad. They were served a bowl of water to dip their fingers and wash their hands in. The Queen’s guest did not know this, so they drank from the bowl. To make this visitor feel welcome, she also drank from her bowl. We should all adopt this idea of including everyone without alienation or condescension.
The only time it is appropriate to correct someone is if they say your name incorrectly. Correct them right away, so they do not mix up your name and the sooner the better to save them from future embarrassment.
Talking politics is reserved for ladies’ and/or gentlemen’s clubs. These clubs originated, because in the household, one was surrounded by teams of servants where you were to hold your title’s expected behaviour. At gentlemen’s clubs, this was where men could freely pass gas, drink, and freely talk politics.
In today’s day and age, only select members of society are invited to these clubs, and sharing your political opinions with the general public might rub them the wrong way. A discussion could go in circles forever, and people take this personally, because voting is personal. It affects everyone in society.
You can grow up with the exact same life experiences as someone else, but still end up with entirely different views. Similar to the latter, religion is an unceasing subject that could be debated and disputed for the rest of your Socratic life. You do not want to waste your time arguing with someone, because life is too short to not enjoy the things you do agree on.
When talking about how much someone makes, it can either inspire others or bring them down. Some people already think they are down on their luck and circumstances, so to add to this would make them see you differently forever. If you make more than someone, they could feel insecure. If you make less, they could see you as incompetent. Talking about money creates larger distances with others you might want to keep close. It is best to avoid the notion altogether and talk about other dreams instead.
The polarising idea of a separation, annulment, or divorce is heartbreaking in every sense. Some might not think so and want to celebrate their detachment. However, others are scorned for the rest of their working lives having to pay alimony or dealing with attorney charges. Once you open Pandora’s box, you might end up listening to someone all night who cannot bring themselves to end the misery of others, because they are going through a divorce.
Children are not a topic to bring up first, but to let others take the lead. If your interlocutor mentions they have grown children with careers who are this age, it is perfectly fine to share about yours too. With modern dating struggles and loneliness, it is becoming harder for people to get together and decide if they want any at all.
Or someone might be having a difficult time trying to have children of their own. Or the adoption process could be bearing down on a couple where they are tired of talking about it for hours at home. Let other instigate this subject that could be sensitive for others.
Remember to read the room and remind yourself that etiquette is flexible and specific to each situation. If you are at church with fellow members, it is perfectly admissible to talk about religion. If you work in politics, or have close friends with similar views, you might be unafraid to provoke their thoughts. These are merely guidelines to live by if you are meeting someone for the first time, or want to keep friends around for a long time.
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