Communication Skills | Relationship Advice


choose: 1. to select, pick out, or decide upon. 2. to judge the merits of multiple options in order to determine one course of action. 3. as it applies to this book, to determine which subjects are safe to discuss and which ones are to be wisely left alone.

You're One More Step Closer To Unleashing The Winner Within! Some things are better left unsaid. One of your primary objectives as a master communicator is to steer away from unpleasant or unwanted topics that leave negative emotional residue on a conversation. That way, you'll have a greater chance of experiencing pleasurable conversations that encourage more frequent and enjoyable interactions in the future.

Jeopardy , known to many as America's favorite television quiz show, has an estimated 12 million viewers daily. The late media mogul Merv Griffin created the show's original concept back in 1964 in the dining room of his apartment in Beverly Hills, California. Since its 1984 syndicated debut, Jeopardy has been honored with over 25 daytime Emmy Awards to date, and this is more than any other syndicated game show in television history.

Much of Jeopardy's success can be attributed to its unique answer-question format. Instead of our normal way of asking a question and receiving an answer, a contestant on the Jeopardy game show must think in reverse by receiving the answer first and then figuring out the original question. Far more than just a simple game of trivia, Jeopardy has become a stimulating test of knowledge that viewers find both entertaining and challenging.

For many people, conversations can also seem like games of trivia in which participants are going from topic to topic displaying their knowledge. But for more enlightened communicators, one-on-one conversations are about more than just showing off your intelligence. They're for bridging gaps between two people, sharing ideas and emotions, and exploring new avenues of expression. They are also sometimes about knowing what kinds of subjects to avoid discussing altogether.


Do you want to engage in enjoyable conversations more often? Then it's important to know as much as you can about the people you're dealing with. This insight will provide safe terrain about which you can roam in light conversations. Then once you know more about where someone stands on certain sensitive issues, you can venture out more freely with topics to discuss. However, even then, there will be topics that you'll want to steer clear of as you speak with others.

When you bring up subjects that are uncomfortable, hurtful or offensive to your listeners, they'll either get offended or lose interest in talking with you. In this regard, a good role model for what not to do is the character Larry David (who plays himself) on the hit HBO comedy series Curb Your Enthusiasm. During this popular half-hour program, we see Larry David at home and follow him on his adventures around town. Show after show, he appears clueless about how to navigate social situations without sticking his foot in his mouth and displeasing someone or ticking off a conversation partner. Some classic examples include Larry David's discussion of affirmative action upon meeting a high-powered black executive, his revelation when trying to change that the "Old Larry" hated his wife's sister, and his disclosure of which of their female friends he'd like to sleep with. Of course, because the show is a comedy, a conversational faux pas on Larry's part usually escalates in very funny ways.

Though the results of Larry David's communication missteps can be hilarious on the show, it wouldn't be much fun if you managed to annoy many of those around you with your comments and choice of subject matter. So in your own conversations, make sure that consider your audience's probable reaction before taking a risk on more sensitive subjects. That way, you'll have people who want to stay around and participate more fully in your discussions.


The topics that are talked about in a conversation will determine a lot about what emotions you and your listeners will experience. Therefore, there are subjects that you'd like to steer your focus towards and others that would be better off avoided.

The following guidelines are designed to keep your conversations on safe ground until you're more certain that everyone involved wants to explore other areas:

Don't start off by being too opinionated . When first talking with people, invest some time easing into your conversations before expressing any strong opinions, beliefs or convictions. This allows your listeners a chance to adjust to you and what you're about to discuss. Otherwise, you could blow people away with strong statements that they may not be prepared to hear and/or respond to comfortably. Making these kinds of comments should only be made in an appropriate situation and after you have fully qualified your remarks (saying, for instance "Listen, I might be completely wrong on this one, but...." or "Please accept my apologies in advance if I'm out of line with this statement but...."). If you express your ideas in this manner, you'll be unlikely to come across as being too opinionated or, even more annoying, self-righteous.

Be careful around sensitive issues. We can do a lot of damage to key relationships by saying too much or revealing things that are better off being unsaid. That's not to say that you can't ever talk about important matters. I'm merely pointing out that in an initial social conversation, it's safer to avoid sensitive issues like politics, religion, money, and sex. Along the same vein, it's also wise to avoid prying into other people's business by asking questions that are too personal in nature. Once you've established a solid base of rapport, there will be more appropriate opportunities in the future when you can freely venture into these sensitive areas.

Focus on topics that interest others. Your listeners will be more receptive to you when you talk in terms of their interests. "What's in it for me?" or "What's significant about this?" are questions that people naturally ask themselves unconsciously during many normal conversations. While you can't always find a topic that's of great interest to everyone involved in the conversation, it's certainly wise to avoid subjects that are of absolutely little or no value to anybody. By choosing topics that other people enjoy or find interesting, you'll have a better chance of getting a more lively exchange of ideas.

Know what you're talking about. You don't want to waste other people's time by voicing strong or contradictory opinions on matters where you don't have any knowledge or personal experience. When your references are thin, be especially sure to mentally check your facts before speaking. Even then, it might be wise to admit what you don't know as well as what you do know about any given subject. This small act of honesty and humility will usually score some points for you. At the other extreme, make sure that you don't come across as a "know-it-all" by giving unsolicited advice. What you gain in respect for your display of knowledge may be lost in their affection towards you. But if people ask you first for your expertise, then by all means give them the best that you have to offer.

Take the more positive angle on a subject. When in doubt, always choose the more upbeat side of a topic. That doesn't mean that you can't see both sides of an issue. What I'm saying is that by keeping the majority of the focus and time of a conversation on constructive, positive ideas, everyone will have a more overall enjoyable experience. This usually rewards you with more enthusiastic, multi-person conversations than you would have if you talked too much or too long on negative, energy-draining subjects.

Stay informed about current events. If you want to relate to a wider range of people, be sure to stay current on the general topics of the day. You can keep abreast of things in our world by reading a quality newspaper, listening to talk radio shows, watching the national news on television, browsing the bookstore aisles, or skimming through magazines like Newsweek, Time, Sports Illustrated, Business Week, and People. You never know when a conversation will turn to a hot topic on business, lifestyle, politics, sports, national news, or international developments. You'll look a lot smarter in the eyes of others if you have something intelligent to say over a broad range of topics.

Don't spend major time on minor subjects. As a general rule, spend major time on major issues and only minor time on minor issues. A characteristic of low-achieving individuals is that they tend to spend the majority of their time talking about minor issues. A smart strategy is to assess the significance of a particular topic and give this topic its proper allotment of time. Then move on to other topics that have greater significance to your audience.

Part of being an excellent communicator is making sure that you select the right topics to talk about for a particular group of people. When you do this properly, it sets up your conversation so that it has a better chance of creating an enjoyable experience for everyone involved.


During the next week, take a special note of the topics that you discuss with others in your daily conversations. Do you talk about the news of the day or more about the issues of your individual lives? Do your conversations contain an interesting mix of worthwhile or entertaining topics? Or do you prefer to talk exclusively about lightweight subjects?

Most importantly, are you satisfied with the choice of subjects that you regularly discuss with others? If your answer is "yes," then continue in that manner and expand your relationships with those who enrich your life with great content in your conversations. However, if you're not satisfied with your regular topics, review this chapter carefully. Come up with at least two or three ways to change your approach when it comes to selecting topics for discussion. In addition, make sure that you expand your social network so that you are around people who talk about things that matter more to you and relate to the brighter, more compelling future you envision for yourself.


Remember that in order to "talk like a winner" in the broadest sense, you must "choose like a winner" as well. All you have to do is follow a simple and powerful rule: Select the right topics to discuss. Once you appreciate the significance of this essential part of successful communication, it's only a matter of experimenting with the ideas, practicing with greater intention, and testing it regularly in your own life until it becomes a constructive new habit.