Business English: Episode 002 – How NOT To Be a Conversation Killer

Oh, this had to be the most glorious thing I’ve come across in any book in an extremely long time. There were those times that I cringed at every little thing I would hear someone say to someone else because either them not being interesting, ignoring safe topics, jumping into a risky spot, speaking about something utterly taboo, or just hurling conversation killers out there. There are a wide variety of things not only in the world of business, but everyday conversation that can make and break every moment.

What is a Taboo?

Dictionary: a social or religious custom prohibiting or forbidding discussion of a particular practice or forbidding association with a particular person, place, or thing.

However, taboos can occur in everyday English, too. Everyday communication amongst populations, different cultures, and more. So, here we go.

Which topics are interesting, safe, conversation killers, a bit risky, or taboo?

  • Books
  • Clothes
  • Family
  • Food and drink
  • Gadgets
  • How work’s going
  • Jewellery
  • Movies
  • Music
  • People you both know
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Sport
  • The city you’re in
  • The hotel you’re staying at
  • The news
  • The weather
  • Your country
  • Your health
  • Your holiday plans

Now, let’s breakdown these conversations (5 of them in the podcast down below.

Conversation 1

The gentleman first approached the other guy at the conference and struct up a conversation about the country. This is a “safe” topic and the best way to go at initiating. Weather is also a great initiator, too, because everyone can relate.


“Ughhh yes…actually it’s a fascinating place.

This is great because he followed up with an -ing adjective to describe the place, which the listener can refer back to.

The initiator then mentioned his job. This could be just a little bit risky. Yes, the man was wearing a badge at the time, but it caught him off guard until he realized his badge. Some people can become very apprehensive in moments like that, especially women. Be very careful.


“Ughhh can I get you a drink?

The man insisted and asked again, making it very pushy on his behalf. He said no the first time, and then he second guessed himself and went along with it so he didn’t make the initiator feel uncomfortable. Rest assured, he asked the man about HIS line of work, drawing interest. This means he’s actually interested in what the man does because he said some pretty relatable things to him. If he had just said, “sure. Just a coffee.” — without any follow-up after that — it would then put the other man in a very peculiar position.


Conversation 2

“Ummmm no”

In this recording, uncomfortability reached its threshold. She introduced herself by her name and asked if she could sit down. His response, as seen above, was “ummmmm no.”

As she sat down, she offered him some food, and again, he was very apprehensive the entire time by saying “ummmm I’m allergic.”

Through my eyes, I felt like she struck out twice by this point. On the third strike, I would’ve thrown a conversation gambit in (maybe my next case study?) to get me out of the super-awkward situation. However, she didn’t. She made the situation worse by offering, again, something that he possibly wouldn’t like.



Have we met somewhere?

So, she asked this question AFTER the three strike-outs, which I think was too late. She asked him if they had met in Oslo before. He then said “I don’t think so.” So now I believe the situation has reached it’s breaking point. The uneasiness has set in and she should’ve found a way out of the conversation. However, she asked a very unsettling question that didn’t relate to anything and blew the situation right over.


You’re an aquarius, aren’t you?

He became even more apprehensive and said he doesn’t follow horoscopes, and then she asked the “taboo” question, a question that shouldn’t be asked within the first 5 minutes or even five days of speaking: “When’s your birthday?”


He, already being uneasy, answered….then she said “typical aquarius.” That could almost be offensive. Saying typical is demeaning one’s intelligence, and that conversation luckily ended before we took in more of the cringing questions.

Conversation 3

In this conversation, the lady immediately related to the man by complimenting him on his talk. He was even more ecstatic to reply because it sounded like he was open versus the previous two conversations.

After the compliment, she then introduced herself and wanted to be of service to him right away, saying that her company may be interested in his product. She then followed up by giving him an ultimatum “let’s fix up a time and meet over a drink. Here’s my card.”

She asked a question after to see what his reply would be in general, and it was great because he dove deeper into creating a bond by mentioning the weather, something that everyone can relate to. He continued, she replied, and then he stepped aside for a moment. I give this lady a solid A-…..the minus is because she said, “don’t worry, I know who you are.” That just sounds a tiny bit weird.

Conversation 4

“So, how’s business?”

He started off strong and could’ve related to the man even more by talking about the difficulties of merging together; however, he chose a taboo topic “railway strikes,” and the man was completely startled.

He went even further by saying, “oh, it must affect a company like yours.”

That’s an assholio thing to say and something you don’t want to say right out of the blocks.

He didn’t terminate the conversation after he knew he got it wrong. The receive worked for Audio and the initiator said, “oh, I thought you were someone else.”


This conversation is done…and the guy from Audi used a conversation killer to get out of the super awkward situation.


That’s the grade he gets. NEVER TALK ABOUT TABOO TOPICS in Business or anywhere in general, especially if you don’t know the person.

Conversation 5

The initiator here gave a compliment. She was quite good at doing it, too. She chose the jewellery topic and complimented the man’s watch before asking where he got it.

She then jumped to another topic such as “the hotel you’re staying at,” doing a pretty good job…but also relating it back to her holiday in Cancun which is opposite of the tundra out there in Moscow, hitting gold with the man because then for just a moment, he escapes his present and visualizes beautiful Cancun.

Right after this she eased, discreetly, into asking him if he wanted anything from the buffet. He not only took the bait, but he went with her.


All in all, these are some excellent conversations to learn from. I do advise you guys to listen to the podcast and listen to each one in their entirety. Would love to hear your thoughts, too! I’ll have to do this again sometime.

[buzzsprout episode=’941185′ player=’true’]

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