With our son home from his special needs college in Wisconsin, Noel and I have been talking more than usual about social relationships, noticing how they work and where they can break down . . .
One thing we spoke about in the car on the way to church yesterday was the art of inserting ourselves into a conversation, or even changing the topic. Lots of people struggle in that area, not just people with special needs.
Facebook and other social media have underlined this issue.
So let’s try to go through it and see whether there are any rules that can be applied to entering someone else’s conversation.
I would say (with my only expertise 55 years of being alive as a student of human nature and relationships):
1) If you start the conversation, whether in person or on Facebook, you own the topic. You get to decide if someone can change the subject or not. Some subject changes relate to a topic and further it. And some are just off the wall. Your choice which ones you wish to pursue!!!
2) If you are trying to change the subject in someone else’s conversation and the person goes along with you, great!
3) If you are trying to change the subject in someone else’s conversation and the person changes the subject back or tells you that you are going off topic, you can’t claim persecution. You can, however, go start your conversation on your own Facebook page or with other people (if in a group). No one is forcing you to remain part of the original discussion. In fact, it is bad form to remain in that conversation if you are only going to be there to disparage it.
4) As in all of life, we all have free speech (at least in this country) but we have to find our own audience for it. It is really, really bad form to intrude on someone’s conversation, when a group has gathered, with the sole intent of changing the subject to your favorite political hot potato issue! Really. And don’t commandeer someone else’s Facebook page for political grandstanding either.
So there are several rules we have noted. What have you seen? Feel free to share in the comments.