Please stop asking, “Do you have children?”
I decided to write this article after receiving several requests to address this issue, and also based on my own experience over many years.
Firstly though, I would just like to say how passionate I am about confident conversation skills. So many of my clients feel really nervous about knowing what to say when they meet people for the first time and so this is a subject that I teach regularly and in-depth.
Speaking well and asking the right questions is, after all, the foundation of building a good network of like-minded friends and business contacts.
Secondly, it’s also really important to mention that culturally the subject of children varies hugely across the world, but I am, as always, addressing this from a British perspective.
So, let’s begin this sensitive subject…
Do you ever ask a person if they have children?
If so, you are not alone. This, along with the question, “What do you do?” is the most common mistake made in the conversation department.
Why is it wrong?
Well, firstly, what you should consider is the answer that you may receive, for example, if the person says, “Yes”, then that normally doesn’t pose any problems as most people are happy to speak about their children.
But what if they say, “No”? How are you going to continue the conversation? Perhaps you might say something like:
- “Are you planning to have them?”
- “Would you like to have them?”
- If the person says no, then perhaps you might ask “Why not?”
- “Oh, don’t worry, there’s plenty of time”
- “You’re probably better off without them”
Now, not only have you just opened up a big hole that you need to dig yourself out of, you have also put the other person in a very embarrassing and possibly upsetting position. All in the first few moments of meeting them!
The person’s reasons for not having children could be any of the following:
- They are unable to have them
- They have experienced miscarriages
- They have given birth to a stillborn baby
- Their child may have died
- They may simply not wish to have children
All of which is theirs and their partner’s business only.
And so, like all personal questions, please don’t ask them!
What about close friends and relatives?
The rules about personal questions apply even when you know the person well and are possibly even related! You should wait for the person to broach the subject and, if they don’t, then you must assume they don’t wish to discuss it at the moment. Or ever.
That is their prerogative and should be respected.
Being a good and confident conversationalist is not a science, it’s an art and can be learnt by anyone. So, don’t worry if you are getting a few things wrong, we all have, but try and practice the right questions and you will see the difference that it really makes when it comes to building relationships.