Vladimir Shlapentokh

Август 31, 2009

Sociological Observation: the taboos we have in conversation with friends and relatives

Filed under: Uncategorized — shlapentokh @ 7:06 пп

Recently, one issue in human relations came to my mind,  it was a result of my refusal to discuss  a certain topic  with my friend.  He was offended by my denial to speaking with him about the topic at hand, which consequently forced me to think that all of us observe  taboos in our communications with relatives, friends, and colleagues. Indeed, looking around me I found that I avoid certain discussion topics with my children, such as the current state of America, particularly its economy as well as a few other issues.  With one of my friends, I avoid debates on economic theories, with another we avoid talking about Stalin and the state of  the Soviet economy.  With my colleagues  I avoid to debate about political correctness, feminism,  minorities studies, and  Obama’s policies. With my American friends it is better to avoid debates about Obama and his domestic and foreign policies, in particular those that involve  Israel.  I even looked back and realized that there were taboos when talking  with my best friends who have since passed on.

It is evident that many factors account for the unique taboos in personal communications,  such as the impact of the  dominant ideology in the given milieu (very aggressive in the USA) and the tolerance toward opposite views (very weak in American society,  particularly in universities).  Each culture demands of its people to avoid several subjects in personal communications. In America,  it is well known that the conversational taboos are personal wealth and income, religion, and political views.  In the Soviet Union it was not accepted to talk about politcal issues with people that you don’t know too well, about the contacts with the Party and KGB, and sexual adverntures of your friends.

Other reasons for taboos: the mistrust in the  intellectual honesty of the partners in debates, the belief that they are indifferent to the search of truth but want only to prove that they  are right , the use of the arguments  ad hominem (the references to the personal  qualities of the opponents, to their past or even their mothers (a joke),) the feeling that the opponent does not enjoy the  intellectual pleasure of the debates and its absorbed only by his self-aggrandizement

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