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This American Life podcast featured this topic some time ago yet I’ve got to say, it is classic advice for all polite society. I like this type of topic because it raises our awareness of what we are putting out into the world. How we impact others. Whether we do or do not diversify our interests and intellectual curiosity.
The list originating from a French woman whose French mother told it to her, the host’s very proper British mother is steadfast in her belief on these seven unspeakable topics. The podcast does do its best to disprove her on all counts to mixed results.
You’re here for the seven things so let’s get to it!
Don’t talk about your dreams
Haven’t we all tried to explain, or even fully remembered a magic carpet ride with our third-grade teacher than landed us on a lavender field sprinkled with chocolate candies in Finland? No one wants to hear about your dream unless it’s playing out on the big screen and Jimmy Fallon is interviewing you about the inspiration for the film you’re promoting.
I filed this under the category of, “you had to be there.”
Don’t talk about your health
Nothing is more tiresome than other people’s problems. Being a Debbie downer trauma dumping on others (unless you’re specifically asked) is not socially courteous.
Talk of your aches and pains, colds and flu, etc. to anyone other than an inquiring blood relative isn’t polite conversation. Or even remotely interesting.
Don’t talk about your diet or eating habits
Unless you’re ordering food do not mention your gluten intolerance, veganism, peanut allergy, etc. It’s not worthy of discussion. People care what they are eating, not what you’re eating.
This is another area that has a caveat. If you have had a significant improvement in your health due to eating habits and you’re specifically asked for details on how you achieved it, go for it.
Don’t talk about your monthly cycle, menopause or other women’s health issues
It happens to every woman for decades of her life. No one wants to hear about your cramps, your flow, your mood and your period paraphernalia. It is okay to discreetly ask another woman for period paraphernalia though.
Don’t talk about your sleep
It’s a waste of your precious breath to detail how poorly you slept the night before, the weeks before or during your entire pregnancy. How your troubles keep you awake.
It’s not the foundation for a civil conversation.
Don’t talk about money
I am guilty of price dropping to give a frame of reference for a restaurant, neighborhood/home price average, country cost of living variances and purebred cats.
In capitalist societies it’s marginally more acceptable but in general it’s a topic best kept out of conversation.
Don’t talk about your route
This is called out as the worst offender of all: The specific road, path, highway, and turns, including the degree of traffic taken to arrive at your destination.
In this instance, it is indeed about the destination and not the journey.
A good rule of thumb from me: If “this too shall pass” will fit what you’re about to go on about, don’t voice it. I had a personal chef business for many years, mainly doing dinner parties. I could make another list of dinner conversation topics overheard in these dining rooms but it’s not my place to reveal what happened at these parties.