Behavior and Etiquette: Conversational Etiquette

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While Americans generally prefer to avoid pauses in conversation, Pakistanis may not. They do not feel the need to fill every moment with conversation. This is especially true when an elder is speaking. The elder may be contemplating his next words and they do not wish to interrupt him. Pakistanis tend to converse in a roundabout manner and statements are made to the whole group and not to an individual. Direct statements are only made to people with whom they have had long-standing relationships. Pakistanis also go out of the way to praise; be ready to be flattered and to flatter others. It is common for Pakistanis to converse in a non-controversial manner. They say things like they "will try" to do something rather than saying they "cannot" or "will not" be able to something. In this case, it is best to ask a question several different ways in order to understand a vague response. It is best to avoid blunt refusals if asked to do a favor for a Pakistani and you are unable to comply, as this would be taken as rude or impolite [19]. A response that suggests an effort will be made (e.g. "I'll see what I can do") is more appropriate. It is always important to be a good listener and to allow the Pakistani to initiate conversation.

Appropriate topics of conversation are the state of the family in general (no specific questions about females), children, health, education, business, agriculture, food, things you like about the country and concepts like bravery, honor, loyalty and courage. Sports, like soccer or cricket, are also excellent topics of conversation. Topics that should be avoided are religion (unless they ask you questions about your religion), politics, India-Pakistan relations, extremist Islamic groups like the Taliban, and war. It is important not to criticize or insult a Pakistani, especially in public, as this will shame them and cause a loss of honor. If a Pakistani does not know the answer to a question or if they are asked about something that they may be embarrassed to admit (for example an error in their work), un-truths may be told to avoid shame. Bringing shame upon a Muslim can have dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences. It is important to understand actions that can shame a Muslim and to avoid those actions whenever possible. For example, correcting a Pakistani in public can bring shame. It is considered rude to directly blame someone for failure. Condescending behavior is also considered offensive.

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