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10 Topics to Avoid When Making Small Talk

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Updated May 15, 2014

Making small talk can be difficult for people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). Small talk involves conversation with strangers about general interest topics. Making small talk not only means knowing what to say but also knowing what topics will be conversation stoppers. Below are ten topics that should generally be avoided during small talk.

1. Financial

Asking personal financial questions of people that you have just met is inappropriate. It is fine to ask what someone does or what he likes about his career, but do not ask how much he makes. Most people will find this question intrusive and inappropriate.

2. Politics

The problem with talking about politics is that you never know who in the crowd may have strong opinions. Stay away from this topic unless you want to risk ending up in the middle of a heated conversation.

3. Religion

Religion is another extremely personal and potentially sensitive topic that should be avoided.

4. Sex

Talking about sex or asking questions of an intimate nature is inappropriate. When talking with strangers, avoid talking openly about sex or making sexual innuendos. Both are likely to make others uncomfortable.

5. Death

Death is another heavy topic that should be avoided during small talk. Remember that you are in the company of strangers and this is not the appropriate time to bring up emotional topics that have the potential to be upsetting.

6. Age and Appearance

If you have just met someone, do not ask her age. Although the question might seem simple to you, it can be a hot topic for some. In addition, avoid questions related to appearance. Do not ask a woman if she is pregnant, or comment that someone has lost weight. You never know the reason for weight gain or loss, and could be left in an uncomfortable situation. Unless you know someone well, avoid these types of topics.

7. Personal Gossip

While celebrity gossip is fair game during small talk, gossip about people that you know personally is not. Gossipping about others not only paints you in a bad light, but you never know who might know each other. Stay away from bad-mouthing others.

8. Offensive jokes

Save your off-colour jokes for your best friends (or better yet, replace them with clean jokes). Making sexist or racist jokes is offensive and a quick way to end a conversation with strangers.

9. Narrow Topics

Although you will want to tell interesting stories at some point during small talk, avoid talking at length about topics that are one-sided. If no-one else has seen the movie, don't go into detail about the plot or the funny scenes. Watch for signs that others have lost interest and find a quick ending to your story.

10. Past Relationships

If on a first date, avoid talking about past relationships. Making comparisons or talking endlessly about a past love is a sure turn-off and a quick way to ensure you don't get a second date.

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