From a young age, we’re taught there are things you can and can’t say to others, especially someone you just met. However, I believe there are other topics we casually mention or keep asking about that we should re-evaluate as well. Although these may seem like “typical” things to discuss, they may be a struggle for someone else.
1. Do you have kids?
I’m not saying you shouldn’t ask this. But as someone who works in healthcare and gets asked this every day, I can tell you it starts to get slightly uncomfortable. I’m in my mid-twenties, unmarried, and without any kids. I would love to be a mom, so my usual response is, “I have two dogs, and they are my children.”
Most people understand and stop there. But if you’re struggling to conceive and get asked this repeatedly, it might hurt your feelings. Personally, I’d feel terrible for asking if that was the case for them. Or if they simply do not want kids at all.
2. Do you have a husband? Are you married?
Nowadays, with how identities change during peoples’ lives, it’s probably more polite not to ask. For example, I’m not married, but I know many who are. And some are married to people of the same sex. So unless someone brings it up first, just air on the side of caution that they may be single, and that’s okay!
3. I could never do that job. It would be too tough.
I’ll admit I’m guilty of this. I always tell my teacher friends I could never do their job for whatever reason and that they’re saints. But I think it would be better to praise them than “criticize” their career choices. Telling someone that what they do is amazing doesn’t downplay their career. It also truly shows your interest.
4. How are you?
This is definitely a second nature question that we ask everyone nearly every day. Most of the time, it’s just routine, and we are not paying attention to their response. That’s where we go wrong. Instead of asking how they are, we need to be more specific or become better at reading body language. You can tell a lot about someone just from how they’re sitting or interacting with you. Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they leaning towards or away from you? Does their tone of voice change when they discuss certain topics?
5. Asking about the absent parent or birth parents
We all know someone who is a single parent or someone who’s adopted or going to adopt. The following questions often follow about the birth parents or the absent parent who is no longer a part of the kid’s life. I feel we ask these questions just to be nosy, whether that’s the intention or not. But unless the person is open to explaining the situation, it’s honestly none of your business.
6. How many more piercings/tattoos are you going to get?
It’s all about the tone when asking this question. Other people who have tattoos or multiple piercings understand when I say this. For example, I have three tattoos and six piercings. I remember my dad blatantly saying, “you’re getting another hole in your head,” when I got my second set of piercings in my ears. To some, it’s a joke, and I don’t really care what others think when they see my accessories. But others can feel self-conscious or frustrated when someone doesn’t understand that they’re getting tattoos and piercings because they love them.
7. Why don’t you like…? Have you tried it?
More often than not, someone has tried something and not liked it. Whether it was one time or many times in different forms, we can’t all have the same tastebuds. “Accusing” someone of not liking coffee, a specific form of alcohol, or even chocolate is just annoying. We don’t need to know why that is, but we can respect that they don’t like some things. We also don’t need to give any suggestions on how to make it taste different. If you don’t want someone suggesting to you to try a food you dislike, then the same applies the other way around.
All in all, I hope this is an eye-opener for some when holding a conversation. It’s all about how you conduct yourself and the tone of voice you use while talking. Other times, you just need to know that asking something that seems fairly innocent or simple can be the opposite for the person having to answer the question.