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10 worst things people say at the start of conversations

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By Gina Barreca for Psychology Today

The top-10 worst conversational openers all have something in common. Narcissists are experts are sabotaging their conversational partners by seeming to ask questions that are actually attacks.

Asking “Do you remember what you said to me a long time ago that still genuinely hurts my feelings?” will probably not end in a hug and kiss.

You can stop these conversational sabotages before they explode into actual bad emotional eruptions. Learn to take back control of the dialogue.

1. “We should talk. For real.”

2. “Are you sitting down?”

3. “In my humble opinion.”

4. “No offense or anything.”

5. “Look, there’s something you should know.”

6. “I should warn you: You won’t like what I’m going to say.”

7. “Hey, I’m just being honest.”

8. “I’m the only one brave enough to tell you what everybody’s saying behind your back.”

and I’m not a delicate flower. Even as I ridicule these ghastly phrases by piling them on top of each other in an attempt to diminish their power, they sting my fingers as I hit the keyboard. That’s how poisonous they are emotionally, and how potentially powerful.

Insensitive clichés, delivered with barely repressed glee have exactly the opposite effect of the expression “abracadabra”: They make everything magically slam shut instead of open up.

Want to terrify your listener into short breaths, dilated pupils, and rapid heartbeats? Using a confidentially condescending tone of voice, start your sentence with “Not that it’s really any of my business but…” and watch color drain from their faces.

Narcissists are the most adept at delivering these lines, but expert manipulators and masterful passive-aggressive types also make trenchant use of these rhetorical weapons.

A conversation beginning with “We really need to talk” has never ended with a hug and a kiss. Never in my life have I come away feeling better after a tête-à-tête initiated via “Don’t take this personally.”

And anyone who lives in the mistaken belief that muttering, “I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this” will bring you closer together has made a perilous choice.

You are the one they put in danger; they remain in control of the situation.

If someone “shouldn’t be telling you this”—if they are betraying someone else’s confidence by saying it and if the information only serves to make you feel important because you think you have a secret—then the warning is right. This is not something you should hear.

Mark Twain summed it up when he wrote, “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: One to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”

I’d add that the friend who gets gossipy, unnerving, upsetting, unsettling, or unnecessarily catastrophied “news” to you is not really your friend. Does a true friend want to whisper into your ear a rumor or a bad opinion that will make you miserable, especially if it’s about something you can’t change?

Beware the bringer of contraband information. Examine their motives.

Beware, too, those who begin conversations in other ways that depend on the bad fortunes of others. Those who enjoy jaunty rounds of “Guess Who’s Dead?” play a version of this bad conversational game.

The game of “Guess Who’s Dead?” gets increasingly unnerving as we age, given that the list of possible winner/losers gets longer.

Yet I never know how to answer. I mean, do you really want me to guess? Do we go by alphabetical order, age, BMI, or wish fulfillment?

Is it like charades, where you can give hints “Okay, two syllables, sounds like ‘bowling’? Rolling? Rolling Stone? Keith Richards?” But no, it can’t be. Keith Richards. Richards, 77, smoking cigarettes since he was conceived, he will bury us all. When anybody asks, “Guess who just died?” I simply reply “It’s not Keith Richards, so just tell me already.”

How can you stop these conversational sabotages, these comments that can verge on micro- aggressions while disguised as socialization opportunities, before they explode into actual bad emotional eruptions? You might consider taking control back from the person who appears to want to seize it from you, even if they are not aware it, or appear to be not aware of it.

You can take the reins in the dialogue. Saying something as simple as “You’re making me nervous. Can we get to the main point right away?” is both honest and direct. It shortcuts the possible poorly or dangerously sparking emotional circuitry and cuts down on drama.

But, look, I’m only telling you this as a friend. Don’t take this personally. I’ve heard you used to be pretty good at conversation, at least you were once. Everybody says so—well, almost everybody. You might not want to hear this, but….

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Arts and Culture

Kenyan-Americans: Where are they?

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An estimated 80,000 immigrants from Kenya resided in the United States. Almost 10,000 Kenyan immigrants to the U.S. reported both their parents as Somali-born. Thus, about 10 percent of Kenyan-born immigrants are likely the children of refugees from Somalia, according to survey by Migration Policy Institute prepared for the Rockefeller-Aspen Diaspora Program.

Kenya has large refugee camps in which Somali and other populations have resided for years.

The size of the Kenyan immigrant population in the United States is small but growing. In 1980, the United States was home to fewer than 10,000 immigrants from Kenya, a time when immigrants from Africa constituted only 1.4 percent of the country’s total immi-grant population. In 2012, the immigrant share from Africa was 4.2 percent.

In the same timeframe, the Kenyan immigrant population grew almost eight-fold from the small 1980 baseline. The Kenyan-born population, along with those from Ethiopia and Nigeria, belong to a rapidly growing cohort of African immigrants in the United States.

About one-third of immigrants from Kenya arrived before 2000 (33 percent) and two-
thirds arrived after 2000 (67 percent). A relatively small share of Kenyan immigrants was U.S. citizens at the time of the survey
(35 percent), the lowest naturalization rate of the five groups in the RAD analysis ─ reflecting the recent arrival of the majority of the Kenyan immigrant population.

Most Kenyan immigrants were working age (77 percent). The remainder was almost en-
tirely under age 18 (20 percent).

Second Generation (U.S.-born with at least one Kenyan immigrant parent)

An estimated 25,000 U.S.-born individuals had at least one parent who was born in Kenya, making it the smallest second generation group.

The majority of second-generation individuals reported that both their parents immigrated to the United States from Kenya (60 percent). Another 28 percent of this population had one parent who was U.S.-born.

Almost all members of the Kenyan second-generation immigrant population were under
age 18 (92 percent).

Immigrants from Kenya were widely distributed across the United States. By state, the largest population of Kenyan immigrants lived in Texas and California, with about more than 10,000 in each.

The largest population of Kenyan immigrants in the United States by metropolitan area lived in Dallas, where approximately 8,000 Kenyan immigrants resided. Other major population centers for this immigrant population included the Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York,
Seattle, Atlanta, Washington, and Boston metropolitan areas.

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Arts and Culture

Where do most Somalis live in the US?

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The first ethnic Somalis to arrive in the U.S. we’re sailors who came in the 1920s from what was called British Somaliland. They were followed by students pursuing higher studies in the 1960s and 1970s, by the late 1970s through the late 1980s and early 1990s more Somalis arrived.

It was not until the mid and late 1990s when the Civil War in Somalia broke out that the majority of Somalis arrived in the United States. The Somali community in the U.S is now among the largest in the Somali diaspora.

Current estimates of the number of Somali immigrants living in the United States vary widely, ranging from 35,760 to 200,000 persons. 2010 American Community Survey data indicates that there are approximately 85,700 people with Somali ancestry in the US. Of those, around 25,000 or one third live in Minnesota; 21,000 of the latter were born in Somalia. Nationwide, 76,205 were Somalia-born. Somalis are the largest Cushitic group in the United States.

According to US Census Bureau estimates for 2008-2012, the largest concentration of Somalia-born people in the United States is in the Minnesota-St. Paul-Bloomington area of Minnesota. Other metropolitan areas with significant numbers of Somali Americans include Columbus, Ohio, Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue in Washington, San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos in California, Washington, DC. – Arlington-Alexandria in the Virginia-DC area, Atlanta-Shandy Springs-Marietta in Georgia, Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale in Arizona, Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro in Oregon, Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin in Tennessee, Boston-Cambridge-Quincy in Massachusetts. Around 40,000 Somalis are scattered around other U.S cities.

In 2014, the Minneapolis City Council passed a resolution marking July 1 as Somali American Day. The event commemorates the Independence Day of Somalia, which is annually celebrated on the same day. The council also approved a resolution making Minneapolis and Bosaso  in northeastern Somalia sister cities. Additionally, the government of Somalia announced that it would start officially keeping count of Somalis abroad.

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Arts and Culture

Which part of London has most Somalis?

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There has been a Somali presence in London for over a hundred years. The first Somalis to arrive in Britain were economic migrants. There are records of British Somalis in London dating back to 1914 when they were recruited to fight in the First World War and then subsequently settled there.
In the 1990s, civil war in Somali forced another wave of migration to Britain. Today, Somalis are one of the most misunderstood groups in the United Kingdom, despite their numbers.

Newham has the largest number of Somalis and the highest proportion of
Somalis (2.7% of the total population), according to a Study by Options UK. Hackney has the lowest number and
lowest proportion (0.7%). Redbridge and Waltham Forest have similar Somali
populations (1.4% and 1.7% of the population respectively). This method produces an estimated 3,127 Somalis in Tower Hamlets, or 1.4% of the
population, a figure that is lower than previous estimates from community organisationst though higher than the previous estimates.

It is surprising that Tower Hamlets seems to have a smaller Somali population than several other East London boroughs, and this has implications in terms of service provision and third sector activity.

At present, the majority of Somali-specific social, health, and voluntary services are concentrated in Tower Hamlets, which may no longer be where the greatest need lies.

The Somali population is extremely youthful: two thirds are under 20 years, and only 4%
are over 50 years. The densest concentrations of Somali students are in Ilford in Redbridge, West Ham in Newham, and Leyton in Waltham Forest. In Hackney, the densest population is in the North West of the borough, by Finsbury Park. Higham Hill, Leyton, Cathall and Cann Hall wards show the greatest concentration of Somali
residents in Waltham Forest.

Tower Hamlets hosts the widest range of Somali organisations working in a range of
areas (health, education, housing, employment).

There is a Somali-led mosque (Al-Huda), Housing Association (Karin), and several youth clubs. There is no general Somali community centre.

Tower Hamlets had the first Somali Mayor in Britain (from May 2009). Somali residents of Tower Hamlets are active in the arts and business, including hosting an annual Cultural Week (which attracts Somalis from across London); publishing Somali Eye (a Somali focused quarterly magazine focusing on community issues); and publishing a glossy current affairs, lifestyles and fashion magazine (Sheeko).

However, the lack of appropriate housing for many families is an ongoing concern, as is the low number of Somalis among public sector employees.

Hackney has few Somali community groups and reportedly none are currently funded. The overwhelming verdict of the borough’s Somali residents is that Hackney has few, if any, services for its Somali community.

Hackney’s proximity to two social and religious hubs (Finsbury Park and Tower Hamlets) may go some way towards explaining its relatively under-developed Somali sector.

Waltham Forest has a diverse Somali community, with a small Somali-run mosque, and is the home of Universal TV. There are numerous small community
organisations. There are no youth clubs for
Somalis specifically, but at least one group works with young people.

Newham: There appear to be few well-established Somali groups, and those that exist (such as the Somali Women’s Advisory Network) are pressed for time and resources.

The borough of Newham does not fund any Somali groups, reflecting its policy of not
funding bodies that serve single ethnic/religious groups. Youth Services are beginning outreach work with young Somalis in Newham, trying to encourage them to access mainstream youth services.

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