Editor’s note: As an etiquette guide, this article is based on opinion. It’s goal is to create a standard.
There have always been certain topics that were unacceptable in polite conversation, but these days that principle is often ignored. This doesn’t mean that any opinion is off limits, nor should the matter at hand be ignored to avoid an impolite topic.
Why to Avoid Taboo Topics
Many of these taboo topics are very likely to cause offence or create unnecessary conflict. Even the ones that aren’t are too heavy for most conversations.
Topics to Avoid
Obviously, it’s fine to discuss how you’re going to split the bill but it isn’t the okay to take it much further. Finances are inherently irrelevant beyond the cost of the activities of the day, and many feel inescapably judged by anyone who just learned about their economic situation. If you know someone is struggling with poverty it might be okay to bring it up to offer your help, but tread lightly.
When someone’s unemployed they usually want people to look past it and treat them with dignity. The unemployed and underemployed are unfairly stereotyped so bringing it up is likely to be construed as an insult. Even the employed may not be comfortable discussing work, so don’t force it.
“Talking shop” tends to alienate people from the conversation. Nobody wants to be forced to listen to a conversation they don’t expect to be able to contribute to. Also, if you get caught up talking shop you won’t be able to mingle.
Politics & Religion
These are among the most divisive issues, and most people feel very strongly about them. That’s exactly why these topics should be reserved for groups that already agree.
Anyone who’s going through any kind of personal problem will likely not want to talk about. Keep quiet unless they bring it up.
Other Uncomfortable Topics
Every topic becomes instantly taboo if anyone in the room is uncomfortable with it. If someone seems to be uncomfortable, change the topic immediately.