Have you ever written or said something that went just a bit too far? Most people have. Once I wrote a blog entry (on a costuming blog) about a Jesus costume. I added in some light humor, though genuinely wrote about the Jesus costume as one being best reserved for nativity plays and such. I promoted the article and-to my surprise-didn’t receive a negative response. However, a random reader posted the article on a user-submitted content site and received a great deal of criticism for the title that he used to promote my story.
Fortunately, most of the people on that site realized that I was the author of the blog entry, not the creator of the ‘funny’ title used to link to it. However, I still learned from it-there are some lines you just don’t want to cross with people in casual conversation if you want to earn their respect, and one of those things is religion.
That’s not to say that I don’t want to be interesting. Here are five dimensional topics I’ve been able to use continually in conversation and writing-with suggestions on how to get away with discussing them.
Making Fun of Nazis
When is it not okay to make fun of Nazis? While Nazis might have been people, too, they certainly carried out atrocious acts. At the very least, it is always socially acceptable to speak poorly of one Adolf Hitler. After all, he committed genocide, and people generally despise that. I’ve noticed that George Lucas and film writers made exceptional use of this topic in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” While the main bad guys die in the film with a greater moral lesson (the need for greed kills off one Nazi in particular), many of them die by being smashed into cliffs or ruined by their own inventions. Because they’re Nazis, this is hilarious and it’s culturally okay for us to laugh at it.
Supporting Active Troops and War Veterans
I get people who are mad about the war. Ten years ago, it was completely inappropriate to remark that war in the Persian Gulf is all about oil. Now there are commercials about how money spent on oil goes to create weapons specifically designed to destroy the armor of American troops. If you venture into war discussion or topics about the war and feel that the topic has become too heated, turn it back to the real concern: the safety of our troops. This topic is safe and one that we all share.
Vampires – “True Blood” versus “Twilight”
Vampires are currently dominating popular culture. It seems like most people are either on “Team Edward” (“Twilight”) or lusting after Bill or Eric from “True Blood.” Because vampires represent real and imagined fears in our culture, they’re also good common ground in most conversations and articles. To add a slightly humorous twist on the conversation, you can always ask your readers or partner in conversation how she feels about the feud between “True Blood” and “Twilight” fans.
The Paranormal and Supernatural
If you’re an open-minded individual, you’ll find that most people have feelings on ‘other beings,’ whether those mysterious folks are gods, ghosts or aliens. These aren’t always easy topics to discuss and you’ll want to avoid religion as a topic until you get to know your conversation partner better. Discussing the paranormal in a general sense can lead you to uncover how the other person feels about the topic now that shows like “Ghost Hunters” are so mainstream.
Any Self-Deprecating Topic
When in doubt, make fun of yourself. If you’re writing an article, make fun of writers. For example, I might presently joke about how writers are always offering advice to others, telling people how to talk and what to watch. Unless I’m chatting with Stephen King or another high-profile writer, this is a pretty safe topic because I am being disarming by gently poking fun at myself.
Many people are touchy about certain conversational topics, but things like religion and politics are often on the forefront of most people’s minds. If you’re looking to move beyond the day’s weather, consider using some of the above topics to find common ground and further conversation with your reader or conversation partner.