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NUDE RULES

A most welcoming hostess asks:

What’s the etiquette for a three-way?

LISTEN:

Oh, you kids and your new technology.  The most important thing is to let both parties know they’re on the call…hold on a minute –

– OK, I’m back.  You meant a ménage à trois, didn’t you?  Conveniently, it isn’t all that much different from a conversation with three (or more) people.

First of all, make sure it’s a good time and you’re not interrupting anything.  And if a couple of friendly people ask you to join in their discussion, make sure you know what side everyone is on so you don’t go offending people – or at the very least know the nature of the conversation you’re getting in to.

In any conversation, everyone should get their chance to talk, and be listened to.  No one should hog all the attention, and no one should be ignored.  If you find you end up enjoying the discussion with one more than the other, you shouldn’t shut them out of it, just pick it up later, in private, when no one else is around.

Following that – don’t interrupt.  Even if someone is taking a really long time to get to the point, you shouldn’t betray impatience – rather, actively listen.  Knowing you’re engaged will indicate that you’re participating, not watching a monologue (though I know some people who are so eloquent, I really could just listen to them talk the whole time).

And look – don’t be surprised if the whole conversation takes a strange turn.  When you add in variables of things like taste, opinion and ability, you’ve got to prepare yourself to wander places you may not have expected.  Sometimes these can be dark, uncomfortable and even scary.  You don’t have to just put yourself completely out there because you’ve accidentally snagged a freak or a flake who you thought would have something clever to say.

Above all, you don’t have to have the conversation if you don’t want to.  Nothing is worse than arguing with a friend or spouse and having them drag someone else in against your will (or theirs, though sometimes people just thrive off the drama) to settle the matter.  The matter, such as it is, won’t be ended to your satisfaction – believe you me – and even if you agree to disagree, the whole thing just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

That said, lively discussions with whole groups of people can be quite amusing – provided there’s that sense of fairness, of give and take, and that everyone is having a good time.  If someone is sitting there in the corner sulking, they’re probably just bored.  Unless you’re the host, it isn’t your responsibility to try to stimulate them.

But it would be nice if you did.

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