How to Keep Relationships Professional without Seeming Disingenuous: Part Two

We’re back with part two of “How to Keep Relationships Professional without Seeming Disingenuous!”

In part one, we discussed three out of six topics that are safe for you to discuss with people in a professional setting, as well as how to bring them up to keep things professional and not too personal.

In part two, we discuss another three topics that are safe, as well as topics to avoid unless you absolutely must discuss them for business purposes.

So, let’s dive right in:

4) Travel

DO Say:

  • Where have you traveled for business?
  • Where have you traveled for pleasure?
  • Where do you plan to travel for business?
  • Where do you plan to travel for pleasure?
  • What is the best place you ever traveled to and why?
  • What is the worst place you ever traveled to and why?
  • Do you have any travel advice?
  • Who do you like to travel with?

DON’T Say:

Have you ever traveled with someone you didn’t like?

  • Leave the negative talk off the table to keep things light, inclusive, and enjoyable for all involved in discussion.

What did it cost you to travel to “X”?

  • Leave personal spending out of conversation. That is too personal and can cause a professional conversation to feel awkward.

5) Work

DO Say:

  • Where do you work?
  • What originally got you into your field of work?
  • What do you foresee being the future of your industry?
  • Do you volunteer?
  • Where do you volunteer?
  • What do you foresee being potential solutions to the causes you volunteer for?

DON’T Say:

Do you like your job/industry? Do you like where you volunteer?

  • This can cause the person to either feel stuck or lie if he/she does not like his/her job, industry, or current volunteer experience. This question would broach the subject of their feelings about their company, boss, co-workers, and even future plans to leave or join a company. Depending who is involved in the conversation, rumors could start to spread because of his/her answer to your question. There is no winning in this conversation for anyone.

6) Hobbies

DO Say:

  • What are some of your hobbies? Tell me about them.
  • How long have you been doing “X” hobby?
  • How were you originally introduced to “X?” Why did you decide to pick it up?
  • Do you know of any resources I could check out if I’m interested in learning about your hobby?
  • Who are some of the people you follow who are really good at your hobby?
  • Do you compete in your hobby?

DON’T Say:

Are you good at your hobby?

  • Even if the person is Tiger Woods in golf or Andre Agassi in tennis, this is an uncomfortable question for anyone. If they answer “yes,” they come across as arrogant. If they say “no,” it leaves the conversation with nowhere to go. Instead, ask, “Do you compete in your hobby?”

Can you teach me how to do this hobby?

  • This question could leave a person feeling pressured to hang out with you outside of work and to come up with a curriculum to teach you something they (1) may not want to do and (2) may not have time to do. How would that person respond is they did not want to do so? This puts them on the spot. This can be easily avoided by simply leaving this question alone. Let others ask you first if you want to get together outside of work. This makes things easier for you and has you not crossing any people’s boundaries unknowingly.


Do not discuss anything controversial even if it accidentally comes up in conversation. Sure, are there certain topics of conversation listed below that have to be brought up in certain industries? Absolutely. However, if these topics of conversation come up as just another topic of conversation and add no professional value, avoid them at all costs. This is not an exhaustive list, but it does cover many prominent discussion topics to avoid:

  • Personal finances,
  • Spirituality,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Politics,
  • Race and/or ethnicity,
  • Personal grudges held against people/companies/organizations,
  • Past criminal record and/or illegal actions,
  • Personal health and/or medication,
  • Issues in relationships

Is there anything I missed? Do you disagree with these points? Tweet me @EricaHill_KW to continue the conversation!


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