The 2 Things You Should Never Bring Up When You Run Into an Old Friend
An etiquette expert reveals what topics to avoid in a catch-up conversation.
Running into an old friend can be a joyful occasion, filled with plenty of opportunities to connect and reminisce. But a chance reunion with someone from your past can also be a potential landmine of missteps. To keep the conversation comfortable and avoid hurt feelings, there are two topics you should always avoid when you run into an old friend, according to August Abbott, PhD, a relationship counselor and etiquette expert on JustAnswer, who has spent 40 years teaching etiquette classes. Read on to find out which subjects you should dutifully steer clear of.
Never bring up weight or money when you run into an old friend.
If you run into an old friend, never start a conversation by remarking on any changes to their weight or body type, Abbott urges. Even if you think you're being complimentary, this is a fraught topic with the potential to insult.
Similarly, avoid wading into any topics related to income or money when you first reunite with an old friend. If the conversation flows and you reconnect more deeply, there will be time to dig into these topics more later, Abbott says.
For a successful conversation, pretend you're doing a friendly interview.
To set yourself up for success in conversation with an old friend, think like a news magazine interviewer tossing out softball questions to a subject for a puff piece, Abbott suggests. "Ask your dear old friend about their children, their spouse, their job/career, what they're doing these days and where they're doing it," she says. "Each one of these queries will result in a response and each response is an entire chapter you can produce all about them."
Some examples, she notes, include questions about kids, travel, empty nesting, downsizing, or other similarly soft but gently probing lifestyle questions.
Keep the tone positive and light.
Abbott says that the goal for a successful meeting with an old friend should be to keep the conversation upbeat, light, and positive—at least at the beginning until more depth and trust can be established.
"If anything is less than hopeful or happy, [it's] time to segue to another topic," she says. "You have plenty." Focus on hopes and dreams for the future, she advises.
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Offer support if an old friend hints at needing it.
Although Abbott advises keeping the conversation light at first, she also recommends leaning into a supportive, comforting response if your friend lets on a vulnerability; don't just speed past it in the name of staying positive.
"If they seem to need a shoulder to lean on, cry on, or just hold onto for this moment, someone to tell their woes to, don't diminish it by laughing it off or treating it lightly," she says. In this case, be understanding and do not offer advice.
"Even if asked, 'What should I do?' all you can offer is, 'I really don't know, but trust that I'm here for you no matter what,'" she says. "'Even if it's just to listen or hold you up, I will be here for you.'"