The conversation topics to avoid on social occasions. Avoid the topics that risk making you look unpolite, nosy, or inappropriate.
What conversation topics to avoid are
On social occasions, it is best to avoid some conversation topics that risk being inappropriate, making others uncomfortable, and even initiating a conflict. In general, it is best to avoid topics that:
- Are deeply connected to someone’s beliefs.
- Relate to personal and intimate matters.
When having conversations with other people, avoid such topics to be pleasant and well-liked.
Conversation topics to avoid principles
The main etiquette principle is not to assume that others share your same beliefs, background, and views. Thus, any conversation topic should be avoided if it risks:
- Offending someone, based on their preferences or beliefs.
- Leading to a heated discussion.
- Embarrassing someone.
Conversation topics to avoid rules
1) Avoid religion and religious topics
It is best to completely avoid religion as a conversion topic. Religion is deeply connected to one’s core beliefs, way to see the world, and personal identity. Thus, discussing religion presents a high risk of offending others and initiating a heated discussion.
2) Avoid talking about politics
Politics are often comparable to religion, as they are deeply connected to one’s core beliefs and personal identity. It is best to steer clear of politics as a conversation topic. If someone brings up such topics, avoid expressing an opinion.
3) Limit work-related conversation topics
Work-related or professional topics can be extremely boring on social occasions. As such, they are often inappropriate as they will make you look boring and dull.
It is perfectly acceptable to say one or two lines about your work and the nature of what you do. Even more, during an introduction to someone for the first time. However, it is best not to go deep into details or to tell stories about work.
Work-related conversation topics are appropriate with coworkers, business partners, or in a professional setting. However, on a work-related social occasion, such as a happy hour or a company event, you may want to mix things up and avoid talking about work all the time.
4) Avoid conversations about money
Talking about money is inappropriate and sometimes even rude. First, many people are not comfortable talking about money and their personal finances. Second, money-related conversation topics risk triggering competition instincts or making someone feel inadequate or judged.
On a social occasion, never ask about someone’s salary or net worth. Similarly, it is rude to talk about your salary or your worth. Avoid talking explicitly about rent or large purchases, such as cars, jewelry, or property. Such topics are not appropriate as they make it possible to infer someone’s salary or net worth. The question “how much did you pay for it” is acceptable only for common items.
It is polite to discuss charity and donations, but never discuss the details and amounts. Apply the same rule to vacations or similar experiences. It is appropriate to say that you visited Brazil. It is rude to say you slept only in 5-star hotels and spent $ 30,000 a week.
5) Avoid controversial topics
The goal of conversation and small talk is to entertain people and facilitate social connections. Conversations are not meant for competition or to show off.
Thus, it is best to avoid any controversial conversation topic. Even if you strongly believe in something, you should not discuss it if it risks initiating a heated argument or upsetting others.
6) Do not ask nosy questions
Asking indirect questions is polite as it helps us find a common ground with other people. However, it is not appropriate to ask nosy or too-personal questions. Questions should not feel like an interrogation. Some people may feel uncomfortable sharing some personal details with you. Others may be afraid of being judged for their answers.
It is best to altogether avoid direct questions about personal or intimate subjects. Do not ask about marriage or kids, as people are likely to bring such topics up on their own if they want to share them. Never venture into health, sexual preferences, or any topic that may be considered intimate.
Conversation topics to avoid at work
In general, it is best to avoid any personal conversation topics at work. It is most appropriate to keep a net separation between professional and private lives. Thus, small talk topics are perfectly adequate. Some generic details about your personal life are appropriate too, such as whether you are married or have kids. However, you should not share additional details or ask others about their personal lives.
Conversation topics to avoid: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst etiquette mistakes.
- 9/10. Talking about religion or politics.
- 8/10. Talking about controversial topics.
- 7/10. Talking about money.
- 7/10. Asking nosy questions.
- 5/10. Always talking about work.
- When, Why and How Controversy Causes Conversation: upenn.edu