The 7 Deadly Sins Of Conversation

My latest PJ Media column is called, The 7 Deadly Sins Of Conversation. Here’s an excerpt from the column.

There are lot of different conversational habits that can cause you to lose friends and alienate people. Unfortunately, you can slip into them quite easily. Next thing you know, you’re wondering why the people at work don’t want to go to lunch anymore and your buddies have stopped returning your calls. Worse yet, once a bad conversational habit becomes customary, it can linger like a bad smell for years at a time, ruining relationships and leaving otherwise wonderful people wondering why they can’t make any of their friendships work. Rather than tiptoeing around the elephant in the room, let’s be brutally honest about the conversation killers that anihilate people’s social lives.

1) Bad manners: In one of my favorite scenes from Season 2 of The Walking Dead, a couple of sketchy guys are trying to convince Rick to take them back to his camp. After talking a bit, one of them goes over in the corner of the abandoned bar, urinates, and makes a comment about “C**ch.” After being alerted by their bad manners that both men are trash, ridiculously boring nice guy Rick shoots both of them to death shortly thereafter. There is a lesson to be learned here. Don’t be crude. Don’t treat maids or waiters rudely. Don’t make an ass of yourself. Because even if it’s not aimed at them this time around, other people in your presence will assume it says something about your character and think, “Next time, that might be me.”

2) Being depressing: Everyone has tragedy come into his life at some point or another and so it’s okay to be sad sometimes. That’s part of life. However, when depression becomes a long-term thing, it’s a problem. First off, if you’re not on your death bed and you’ve been depressed for months over just about anything, you should be consulting a psychologist. It may FEEL normal and natural to you to be depressed long term, but that’s not so. Human beings are not supposed to walk around in a semi-permanent funk for any reason and if it’s happening to you, you need to get it taken care of, just like you would a broken arm. There’s no shame in it — this is a medical problem like any other.

Getting beyond that, most people are fairly understanding about someone being down in the dumps. Why wouldn’t they be? It has happened to them, too; so they can easily relate. However, when it becomes a regular thing and you’re always a downer to be around and you’re making no effort to improve… people start to pull back. That’s because if you hang around depressing people, it depresses you and drains your energy. Who wants to be depressed? Again, if your hand is up, go see a psychologist already.

3) Race, religion, politics: I’m a conservative Christian and you might very well guess that if you talk to me for awhile, but I generally don’t bring up race, religion, or politics first with people I don’t know well. Those can be emotional subjects and people don’t like to have unpleasant conversations about emotional topics. So, you’re always rolling the dice if you dip your toe into those three areas.

Some people, however, take it to the next level and torture everyone around them by obsessively focusing on one of the big three. You can’t have a ten minute conversation with these people without ’em touching on some race they don’t like, wondering how you can possibly like Person X from the political party they hate, or finding a reason to quote scripture. Even if you agree with someone like that, it’s still tedious to hear him raise his leg and spew his tired opinion all over you like a dog with a bladder control problem. Spare us the blather.

4) Arguing about everything: There are some things that aren’t worth an argument. Let me rephrase that: most things aren’t worth an arument. That’s why people say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Still, there are some folks who just HAVE TO BE right about everything. If they think you’re wrong about something, they feel compelled to mix it up with you until you admit that they’re right about whatever pointless topic they’re discussing. Listen, if a woman argues that she can’t get pregnant if she stands on her head right after she has unprotected sex or that she’s perfectly fine to drive after her 6th Long Island Iced Tea, sure, go ahead and fight the good fight. But otherwise, put your overwhelming desire to be right about everything on hold and stop irritating everyone around you.

5) Talking without listening: Ultimately, no matter who you are, the person you’re talking with is more interested in himself than you. So when you continually pay scant attention to what he’s saying because you’re planning out whatever bilious bullflop you want to spew the moment he stops talking for a second, it makes you trite. Genuinely listening to another human being and asking him interesting questions about what he’s saying will be far more fascinating than anything you can come up with; so close your mouth and open your ears.

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