Being a true lady or gentleman necessarily goes through having a distinguished conversation. This is a sophisticated art with multiple subtleties: how to enhance your intelligence, how to make your guest feel witty and special, how to incorporate everyone in the discussion etc. And of course, there are some topics we better avoid to talk about, in order to remain polite, present a good image of yourself and avoid conflicts. This is why I propose a review of these taboo topics.
Discussions about religion may be dangerous because they may drive people to speak with passion and no longer with their reason. Some of your guests may wish to convert the other to their faith or expose how happy they are thanks to their beliefs, which will make the non-believer uncomfortable.
How to handle this topic: Avoid to open yourself about your beliefs or to ask about someone’s religion if you are not with close friends or relatives. If someone tells you about his faith, show a polite interest without going too far.
Yes, family. It’s trickier than what it seems. This is a no-go with a person you have been recently acquainted with. The reason why? “Are you married?” The person in front of you may be ashamed not the be married at his / her age, or about to divorce. “How are your parents?” What if he lost his parents at a young age, or if they are dead? “Do you have children?” What if he or she tried and couldn’t have any? It would be a painful reminder.
How to handle this topic: Don’t ask direct questions regarding family, even if you are sincerely interested in knowing this person. You may ask indirect one “Are you meeting any family for the spring festival?”, in order to let him/her the choice on how deep an answer to give you.
Races and physical appearance
There are some types of people with bigger noses, smaller eyes, larger shoulders, darker or brighter skin etc. And it is the duty of a lady or a gentleman not to underline it, even if you don’t have prejudiced against it. The reason is simple, if you see someone who is having an unusual appearance you are probably not the first one having noticed it and questioned this person. Imagine how annoying for him/her it should be.
How to handle this topic: That simple, we don’t talk about it at all, even for making compliments.
Money is the typical discussion of nouveau-riches, what we would call “new money”. Old money people are very allergic to this topic, and consider it as a show-off. Talking about your money or someone else’s money won’t make your discussion interesting for your guests (or not for good reasons). They should appreciate you for what you are and not what you have. We should then not explicitly tell how much did we buy our house, car, clothes, furniture, etc.
How to handle this topic: Never mention precisely the amount you spent, and be careful when asking the price of something owned by someone else.
We mentioned it in a previous article, if you talk about gossips the people in front of you may think you would potentially gossip about them with somebody else. Simply avoid it, there are topics of bigger interest.
How to handle this topic: if somebody is gossiping with you, just listen politely but avoid to push the discussion further, simply change the topic when possible.
This is a taboo many people ignore. I am sure you heard many times someone complaining about “today’s youth, they have no respect / they are only watching their phones / they have poor moral values / they like stupid games…” A new generation builds its value with the older values but also against them. Protesting about the new habits of the young generation shows an incapacity in adaptation and low tolerance.
How to handle this topic: if someone complains about today’s youth, gently remind him/her this generation cannot be so bad and probably has many qualities.
Politics and patriotism
Is there any more dangerous topic? Here as well people may talk with their passion, and no longer reason. Unless you are very close to that person, simply avoid it.
How to handle this topic: You need to be very careful if someone starts talking about politics, you may listen politely and take the first opportunity to change the topic.
Abortion, women’s rights, homosexual rights, historical problems, etc. The list is long, and here again, people may become passionate: strongly for or strongly against. Don’t take any risk or be ready to fight and potentially ruin the ambiance of the dinner.
How to handle this topic: Listening politely is often a kind solution, try to find some nice words to show empathy to your friend’s opinion, but avoid to drive the topic any further.
Sex, diseases, death
I will combine these three topics together for the obvious reason they will make everybody, not at ease. Some may be shocked, some may be sad if they lost a relative, some may demonstrate some inappropriate taste for morbidity or vulgarity.
How to handle this topic: This time there is no need to politely listen, you could with a joke say there must some many better discussions, or suddenly shout a way out: “oh look outside! Did you see it? I’m sure I saw a yellow elephant. No? Anyway, what were we talking about? Ah yes, your next vacations plans”.
Humour is almost always the best solution to get out of an uncomfortable situation and to show how witty you are. Again, I hope our advice has been useful. Please do not hesitate to write to us with any questions!