Unless you are 100% certain that the other person/people share your beliefs or you are 100% certain you want to risk alienating people, you should not talk about sex, religion, or politics. This doesn’t mean you should not have opinions on such matters, my father just believed strongly that we should talk about the things that unite us instead of the things that divide us. The difference between other topics and the three forbidden topics are that our beliefs about sex, religion, and politics are core beliefs and core beliefs cannot be changed by others. You may be able to change my mind about eating more fiber, wearing green, or shopping at a particular store. However, only I can change how I feel about having sex, worshiping God, or voting conservative. The more you try to convince me otherwise, the more I will resist. If someday I come to agreement with you, it must be on my own accord.
Now that you know why it is fruitless to try to persuade someone about their core beliefs, let’s think about where to go from here. It’s always easiest to avoid those touchy subjects, but what if you walk smack dab into the middle of one? You really have three choices: 1-try to change the subject, 2-walk away and talk to someone else, 3-approach the subject carefully and join in. Options one and two are the best options as number three may cause you more stress (going back to my father’s point about things that divide us versus things that unite us). In an idea world, you wouldn’t have to choose how you’d handle the situation, because others would avoid the topics just like you do.
To avoid the three forbidden topics, try some of the following conversation starters the next time you are in a group:
*Ask others where they are from.
*Ask others what type of work they do and what they like best about their line of work or employer.
*Ask others about an upcoming vacation, or where their favorite vacation spot is.
*Ask others about their pets, hobbies, or any sports they may be involved in.
If someone asks you about your political view point, how you feel about homosexual marriage, or they want to complain about their sex life, you may want to make a quick humorous comment and try a different topic. This is sometimes easier said than done, but the best thing to do is to plan ahead. The next time you aren’t feeling so warm and fuzzy about a conversation, have an idea in your head about what you could say to change the subject. (For example: My neighbor tells me that the people across the street were having sex with the shades open last night and she wants to complain about it and how upsetting it is that they aren’t modest. I might say: “You know, the monkeys at the zoo were doing that very same thing last time we were there so we just went on to the next exhibit. Did you know you can feed the giraffe’s at the zoo and it’s not too terribly expensive?”)
The above example wasn’t a smooth transition which should let my neighbor know that I am not comfortable with the subject and should stop all future mention of it. I let her know I was uncomfortable and I moved on to something more pleasant. If you plan ahead for these delicate moments, you will find yourself feeling more comfortable and you’ll start hearing less about peoples sex lives (or lack thereof).