When I ask students which conversation topics they advise themselves and others to avoid at gatherings their answers rarely differ. “Religion, politics, and money,” is the typical answer.
My students are on target here. Of all the conversation topics we might choose, those three are the most emotionally charged topics for many people. Also, they are the subjects people are most willing to judge others by. And once an opinion has been formed about someone, it is very difficult to change.
Engaging in conversation is something we do daily, and without giving it much thought. This mindless act allows us to share information and build relationships.
But when we make it a mindful act, a simple conversation makes someone feel seen and heard. Their thoughts and opinions are acknowledged, and they feel respected. Many times, this can occur before you even move on from small talk!
If you consider the purpose of a conversation to bring people together, and act from that place when communicating with someone, you will automatically create connections with others.
A first impression is, many times, a lasting impression. Certain social situations and networking for professional purposes create circumstances where you need a first impression to be a very good one.
Particularly when meeting someone for the first time, the consensus is to keep conversation topics neutral and express general opinion when called for. This may seem inauthentic, but the reality is that you don’t really know the person to whom you are speaking. You may not know where they work, who they are related to, or where they live. Going all in before any sort of relationship is formed could not only be offensive, but it could also damage any potential social or business rapport.
Even as you get to know someone as a trusted business colleague or new friend, test the water before diving into a detailed conversation about political views or religious beliefs. There may be a need to agree to disagree before too much is said.
As you enter a conversation with anyone, do so with open ears and an appreciation of the fact that there always are differences.
With that, what topics should you shy away from?
The human tendency to stereotype is always with us, yet our better angels urge us, daily, to create harmony and extend good will in our families and communities. Avoiding emotionally charged conversation topics, as well as gossip or speaking ill of others, will help you communicate mindfully.
Another important aspect of mindful communication is listening. There is no way to “share” a conversation without it!