Exploring the unspoken rules of conversation.
As an avid fan of clear communication and healthy human relationships, I have made myself overaware of the common courtesies of speaking in North American culture. The problem with being so sensitive to the unwritten rules is that it can be much easier to become annoyed when other people break these rules. Yet still, these rules exist. Until now, they have remained invisible- but it’s time for a review of what we already know and hopefully live by.
Knowing when not to talk to a person. It’s not so much a “not before I’ve had my coffee” situation, as it is that many people (even if they are indeed “morning people”) do not enjoy engaging in conversation for the first hour of the day- especially if it involves hearing petty stories involving pet problems or car trouble. Also, if a person seems quiet like they may be upset or stressed, do not say “Well, what’s wrong with you?!” Instead, politely ask them if they want to talk about it. If they say no, then say, “I’m here if you need me” and don’t talk to them until they talk to you.
Knowing what not to say. Refrain from pointing out obvious cosmetic flaws: recent weight gain (this includes pregnancy), hair loss, acne, scars. The person may not ever forget your comment if it involves any topic like those. They may never refer to you as a “nice person” again after that- but instead, you’ll be forever engrained on their “rude” list.
Knowing how to have an opinion yet not preach. Many people are into healthy lifestyles these days, being much more aware of organic eating. When asked by someone about your own lifestyle choices, simply answer their questions. Only continue the conversation from there if they sincerely show interest. Do not debate with them or become their “food judge” by saying, “Wow, you’re actually gonna eat all those carbs?” as they walk by with a big bowl of spaghetti.
Knowing how to be positive. No one likes a whiner. While the poor economy and the Gulf Oil Spill Crisis are common knowledge and therefore make easy topics, avoid initiating a conversation about them. Look for ways to “make a person’s day” by what you say instead of simply adding to the noise. You’ll stand out, in a good way. Needless to say, for more reasons that one, please never get caught saying, “I got a case of the Mondays!”
Knowing how to actually compliment someone. Make sure a compliment is truly a compliment. If there is a casual criticism thrown in there, it voids out the positive vibes. Like this: “I really like that purple shirt you’re wearing, even if it makes your skin look a little pale.” Not cool.
These starters are only the tip of the iceberg. But they are real reasons why some people are “good with people” and others aren’t. Either way, good communication is a learned skill- it’s just that some people are more observant than others.