Dr. Shadee Elmasry
"If you are invited, attend. After you eat, leave, and do not stay and indulge in chit-chat" (33:53 Ahzab).
Some people sadly feel they are not wanted. I found that mostly the reason is so simple: they talk too much. They might talk too much because they didn't get much attention as kids and so once they get any, they're afraid of letting it go. Psychology aside, are there any guidelines for how much we should talk, and how to converse?
Just because there is no objective measure for "normal" doesn't mean there's no measure at all. Normalcy is defined by what a random large group of people in a certain time and place would not consider odd. It could shift and change over time, so you have to keep up.
Here are some basic norms based on observation:
PHONE CALLS: 10 minutes max On average, they should be a maximum of 10 minutes long. If you don't really know the
person, it should be much shorter. If its family it can be longer.
TEXTS: 5 per side One problem I had with smartphones is people expect conversations through text and if
you stop mid-convo, it's offensive. On flip phones, everyone understands there is a
limit. I think five texts per side is the most it should go, otherwise, you're taking up their
EMAIL: 3 paragraphs, 3 back and forth
I never understood long emails. Who's reading this? Worse is when the other person
answers back point by point. I think this only happens in a divorce.
MEET FOR COFFEE: 30-60 minutes max This usually happens in the middle of the day when people are at lunch break, or right at
the tail end of the day. And eventually, the coffee shop needs their table back anyway.
DINNER INVITE: 3 hours This I'm 100% sure of. If it's at 5:00, leave around 8:00. If three hours pass and you see
the guy going upstairs, yawning, or folding chairs, those are all signals to get going.
COME FOR TEA: 2 hours
If they wanted you for three hours, they would've fed you dinner! It's only tea for a
WHAT NOT TO SAY -Unsolicited advice! I totally hate this. I think everyone does. A man once stopped me at the supermarket at 9 pm on a weeknight to advise me about my Jum'a khutbas. He held me up for 40 minutes. Being an older man, I couldn't say anything. Needless to say, I started avoiding him after that.
-Bringing up differed upon topics, like politics or controversial people. I actually like when *other* people do this because it makes things exciting, but as for me, I like to keep my friends, so if I know something bothers them, I don't bring it up. Basic common sense.
HOW TO TALK WITHOUT TALKING Ask questions and make yourself interested in their job, their kids' soccer league, their new patio, whatever. And you just keep developing your questions from there. The other person will feel so happy. So it's all based on them, not you.
The hardest thing about this is that we all know that one person in the group that just talks too much and makes everyone uncomfortable with their misplaced criticisms and their self-appointed advisory position. But nobody wants to hurt their feelings, so nobody says anything. In the sura above, the Prophet ﷺ himself was embarrassed at bringing it up. Therefore, we should promote some basic etiquette throughout the community and hopefully, they will take heed!