Lauren M.G. Burt: The Faux Pas of Conversation
There is an art to navigating a career, health, relationships and finances among all the other daily tasks. And how we converse about all those things is an art in itself. Especially when faced with those awkward conversations that hang stale in the air. You know, the type that can occur with that quirky family member, an inebriated party-goer or even a random stranger.
Blame it on social media or the growing lack of face-to-face interaction, but the art of conversation is dying a quick death.
The etiquette of conversation reaches far beyond the world of 20-or-30-somethings. Perhaps the oversharing on social media has prompted people of all ages to think that any and all topics are for public consumption.
The following list of faux pas have been compiled based on readers' feedback about the inappropriate topics that arise most often:
Money: This list is extensive but asking about the cost of housing, vacations, child care or the cost of items; i.e. cars, clothing, accessories, etc. should be avoided in social settings. When it comes to income, asking about someone's salary is not a topic for the cocktail party.
Marriage: Asking someone when they are getting engaged or why they are not yet engaged is the ultimate don't. Getting engaged or married is one of the most personal decisions in life. It shouldn't be used as social fodder. Couples today may date for many years before getting married — if they choose to get married at all.
Babies: The rule of "never say never" should be broken to allow for a woman to never be asked about being pregnant. And not all newlyweds or couples are trying to have a baby. On the flip-side, some people try desperately to have a baby to no avail, so the question is extremely emotional when asked flippantly.
Politics/Religion: These two important subjects are so varied and personal; and should be discussed intelligently with respect.
Health: The topic of weight is so personal, even with weight loss. Telling someone they "look tired" is a thoughtless way to tell someone they don't look well. Aim to be supportive and address health topics positively. And if any statement involves the words 'weight' and 'baby' — avoid it at all costs.
Keep in mind that having a conversation with a close friend is different than socializing or networking.
Always be aware of your audience, especially when broaching emotional or personal subjects.
The next time you're engaged in conversation, take a moment to think about what you're really communicating. And should you find yourself on the receiving end of an awkward question, a polite but powerful reply of, "Why do you ask?" usually sets the person in their place. For those oversharers, there is one motto to be used time and time again — treat others as you would like to be treated.