A Table of Rules for the Table
|1||You talk for ever about your favorite topic, but no one else cares about it. Also, not observing turns. Taking all the talk time.||Look at your audience. Are they engaged? If not, change the subject. Your turn lasts only so long. Everybody wants to talk.||Give over. Take turns. Be brief.|
|2||Leaving people out of the conversation. You’re with your family, and your boyfriend is with you. He hasn’t said a word in an hour.||Have mercy on your audience. Respect their need to talk, and the limits of their patience.||If someone hasn’t spoken in 15 minutes, ask them a question.|
|3||Anxiously monitoring the conversation. The conversation needs help. You compulsively help.||Take a beat. Ask yourself what’s the best understanding right now.||You’re not in control of the conversation.|
|4||Reminiscing.||There are things in the here & now that need our attention.||A little is alright.|
|5||Talking about something that only 2 or 3 people out of the group can relate to.||This is the real discipline and joy of conversation — thinking of topics everybody can enjoy.||Work to come up with and stick to topics everybody at the table can relate to.|
|6||Bringing up hot button issues between you & another dinner guest.||Heat can be so much fun, but only if everybody can relate.||Don’t bring up interpersonal conflicts in front of company. Effin hell be respectful of your spouse.|
Some good food for thought.
These rules are good reminders, especially around elderly, closed-minded, easily offended relatives, but every dinner table is different. And every “You” is different. This table assumes that “You” is a boring, egomaniacal blabbermouth. Granted, some of us are, but “You” could just as easily be the shy one not saying anything. That “You” is already following these rules to an extreme. In my time, I”m sure I’ve been both kinds of “You,” and I’m sure I can learn a thing or two from this table, but I think it needs more flexibility. If universally followed, I’m pretty sure these rules would drain all the life out of conversation. Ideally, conversation is where we should exchange ideas and perspectives and be exposed to things we haven’t experienced. If you limit the topics to things everybody can reliably relate to, you end up talking about mutual family members, cooking, football and the weather. I did agree with the rule to be aware that you’re not in control of the conversation — sadly.