Listening Tips - Polite or Rude?

Talking Topics – Terrific/Polite or Taboo/Rude?

Talking topics – terrific/polite or taboo/rude, are important to know for many reasons. For example, to prevent breaking up a friendship, jinxing a job interview, or threatening an adult relationship. Also, knowing the difference in what to talk about can help kids be able to reject topics that can lead to bullying, And, with the bullying epidemic we now have, this is important for kids to learn as early as possible.

Talking and Listening = Conversation

Most of us think that because we talk and listen all the time, that we know how to do it right. However, sometimes we say things without thinking and can hurt people’s feelings. So it’s important that we talk and listen in a kind, caring, and respectful manner.

Here are some tips for making conversation. Ask people polite questions about themselves. This is a great way to ‘break the ice.’ Most people like to talk about themselves, so we can ask where they live, what school they go to, or what sports they like. Be sure to ask questions that don’t require just a “yes” or “no” answer. Otherwise, the conversation will stop. In addition, offering a compliment can help get a conversation started. And, you can make small talk to keep the conversation going.

A conversation includes both talking and listening, but this blog post is all about talking. We will deal with listening in the next blog.

Talking Topics – Terrific/Polite or Taboo/Rude? Start with Talking Tips

I already mentioned that we all talk all the time, so we should be pretty good at it, right? So let’s look at some talking tips and see how well you measure up. It might be fun to get your kids on board for this and have them practice with you. When doing my social skills classes, I have the kids get a partner for practice.

Talking Tips – DO’s

1. Be friendly and SMILE – No-one wants to talk to a mad, grump face.
2. Sit or stand facing the other person -No-one wants to talk to the back of your head.
3. Look them in the eye, not at the floor (make eye contact) – if you look around, you won’t see many people making eye contact these days; most look down. And, most kids have a hard time doing this as well. However, it is very important, especially in business!
4. Speak clearly, no mumbling – it’s impossible to understand someone speaking with a mush mouth! In fact we have a great song that includes mumbling on the Award-Winning Cool Kind Kid CD: Introductions, Track 3.
5. Give people space; don’t be in their face – Grab a partner and first move very close to each other, see how uncomfortable that is, then move back to where it is comfortable for both parties.
6. Speak softly, no yelling – Kids like to yell, but most people can hear better when spoken to in a soft voice. In fact, remind kids about using their ‘inside voices’.
7. Think before speaking – And before posting, and before texting; so you don’t hurt someone’s feelings.
8. Ask sincere questions – Not nosy, embarrassing, or too personal ones. More on this in taboo topics.
9. Be positive – People will be uncomfortable when the talk is about negative things, such as someone else, politics, or religion.
10. Respond with answers that make sense and will keep the conversation going – People will know you aren’t paying attention if your answer doesn’t jive with the question or comment.

Talking Tips – DON’T’s

1. Don’t interrupt – Interrupting shows a lack of respect for others. Adults can raise a hand to signal others to wait. Or, they can say, “just a minute.” But kids have all kinds of good excuses for interrupting, and don’t want to wait. I tell kids to only interrupt in an emergency, such as if they are bleeding or the house is on fire. But remember to always say, “excuse me” first. Giving someone who wants to tell you something a nasty look or telling them to go away isn’t polite or the right way to handle this.

2. Don’t ask rude questions – Let’s add nosy questions to this one. Rude or nosy questions are often too personal, too harmful, or too painful. They are usually not tactful, may often start an argument, or may hurt someone’s feelings. In many cases they are just no-one’s business. You can respond to these rude or nosy questions [or topics of conversation] by saying: “I’d rather not talk about that.” Or you can ignore the question and change the subject.

3. Don’t talk while someone else is talking – Talking when someone else is talking is quite rude. It shows you aren’t paying attention to the ongoing conversation, and think so little of the people talking, that you just talk over them. This doesn’t do much for your reputation. There isn’t anything we have to say that is so important that it can’t wait a few minutes until the current conversation if over. If you happen to start talking without realizing that a conversation is already in progress, just stop and apologize for the interruption.

4. Don’t talk to strangers –  This conversation with kids needs to be carried out early and repeatedly. You don’t want to scare them, but they should have a healthy respect for who and what dangers are out there and how to avoid them. Set up some signal words, or other safety strategies that will make them feel more secure. Insist that they report to you any attempts or approaches from those they don’t know. Also  remind them that the danger can be from those they are close to. Most importantly, kids must know that reporting is not tattling.

Talking Topics – Terrific/Polite or Taboo/Rude? Totally Terrific Topics

School                                       Classes                                  Teachers
TV shows                                  Concerts                                 Fads
Movies                                       Fun activities                         News
Sports                                        Family make-up                    Travel
Hobbies                                     Friends                                  Vacations
Social events                             Parties                                  Computer games
Church, temple, mosque           Social activities                     Email
Add your own terrific/polite topics ____________________________________________

Talking Topics – Terrific/Polite or Taboo/Rude? Tacky Taboo Topics

Yourself                                      Personal, private things       Ethnic jokes or slurs
A friend’s secret                         Bad words                            Someone’s size
Dirty jokes                                 Pointing out differences        Family secrets
Pointing out disabilities             Gossip and rumors               Someone’s age
Someone’s flaws                       Boasting                               Political differences
Nosy stuff                                  Bragging                               Religious beliefs
Someone’s weight                     Compliments you’ve received
Add your own taboo/rude topics_________________________________________

Talking Topics – Terrific/Polite or Taboo/Rude? GAME

Mix up the topics from the Totally Terrific or Polite list and the Tacky Taboo or Rude list. Tell your kids to give a thumbs up if you say a topic that is Terrific/Polite, and a thumbs down if you say a topic is Taboo/Rude. See how well they do. Then explain why some topics are not good to talk about.

Blurty is a Cool Kind Kid character who always seems to say the wrong thing. Play his song and see if your kids can identify what he is doing wrong. Award-winning Cool Kind Kid CD, Blurty, Track 5.

Asking Questions – Polite or Rude?

Rude, nosy, or embarrassing questions are often things kids say because they don’t have the filter yet that tells them when something is not appropriate. It’s important to teach them to think first before speaking, whether asking questions, posting or texting. You’ve probably seen this newer reminder to THINK FIRST!
T – Is it True?
H – Is it Helpful?
I –  Is it Inspiring?
N – Is it Necessary?
K – Is it Kind?

Sample Questions – Polite or Rude?

  1. Your St. Bernard is a very big dog. How much does he weigh? [polite]
  2. Your mom doesn’t look well, has she lost weight? [rude]
  3. Hello Mrs. Melvin, you sure are wrinkled. How old are you? [rude]
  4. Did any of you see the new TV shows? Which ones did you like? [polite]
  5. I need to use your bathroom. Is it clean? [rude]
  6. Do you always make such good meals, Mrs. Smith? [polite]
  7. I like your new Jeep, Mr.Wwalters. How much was it? [rude]
  8. How is your soccer team doing this season? [polite]
  9. I like your new haircut, Mr. Brown. Is that a toupee? [rude]10.
  10. Dad, how was you day at the office? [polite]

Listening Skills will be covered in the next blog post.

Communication Resources

© Barbara Gilmour

Leave a Reply