Skip to main content
How to talk about taboos 01 Speak up Taboos exist because social codes keep them under wraps. As a charity we speak openly about taboos without fear of penalties. We share personal stories of taboos, break social norms and lead by example. 02 Never assume While we are keen to lead on ‘talking’ we respect everyone’s right to talk about taboos in their own time. Never assume just because someone’s not “talking” that they’re not affected. Always speak respectfully as if people may have suffered because of taboos. 03 Listen empathetically It takes guts to speak about taboos. When someone shares their story listen openly, create space for them to share their experiences and feel seen and heard. Don’t solutionise - only offer up advice if it’s asked for. 04 Use the right words Taboos are often surrounded by euphemisms and language that hides the taboos. We use correct language boldly and without shame. 05 Don’t laugh off discomfort Another tactic used to keep taboos in place is to use ‘humour’ or ‘othering’ to create a barrier to being open to listening. We never use humour to perpetuate taboos. 06 Respect privacy If someone has shared their taboo story it’s still their story, it’s not yours to pass on. We respect the privacy of conversations about taboos and don’t ‘out’ others stories. 07 Speak out against penalties Taboos are policed by enforcing penalties for those affected. These may be overt discrimination or more subtle. Call it out when you see it.

How to talk about taboos

How to talk about taboos 01 Speak up Taboos exist because social codes keep them under wraps. As a charity we speak openly about taboos without fear of penalties. We share personal stories of taboos, break social norms and lead by example. 02 Never assume While we are keen to lead on ‘talking’ we respect everyone’s right to talk about taboos in their own time. Never assume just because someone’s not “talking” that they’re not affected. Always speak respectfully as if people may have suffered because of taboos. 03 Listen empathetically It takes guts to speak about taboos. When someone shares their story listen openly, create space for them to share their experiences and feel seen and heard. Don’t solutionise - only offer up advice if it’s asked for. 04 Use the right words Taboos are often surrounded by euphemisms and language that hides the taboos. We use correct language boldly and without shame. 05 Don’t laugh off discomfort Another tactic used to keep taboos in place is to use ‘humour’ or ‘othering’ to create a barrier to being open to listening. We never use humour to perpetuate taboos. 06 Respect privacy If someone has shared their taboo story it’s still their story, it’s not yours to pass on. We respect the privacy of conversations about taboos and don’t ‘out’ others stories. 07 Speak out against penalties Taboos are policed by enforcing penalties for those affected. These may be overt discrimination or more subtle. Call it out when you see it.

How do we talk about taboos?

Well, firstly, let's define a taboo.

At TT, we say a taboo is a topic shrouded in silence and shame, hidden from public view. Silencing around taboo subject leads to isolation, and we can be left feeling alone in our experiences. A lack of language or framework for safe discussion makes this worse, and we are left usure how to speak about the issues affecting us.

This hesitation to seek help can show up internally too - and it sometimes takes time to recognise when you are facing a taboo issue. Often, if we are able to speak out about the taboo, a penalty for doing so descends. This type of shame and isolation can cause serious health and social harms, so it's important we learn how to talk about taboos, as well as be good respondents when someone else shares their taboo experiences.

Here are 7 things to keep in mind when talking about taboos:

01 Speak up Taboos exist because social codes keep them under wraps. As a charity we speak openly about taboos without fear of penalties. We share personal stories of taboos, break social norms and lead by example.

02 Never assume While we are keen to lead on ‘talking’ we respect everyone’s right to talk about taboos in their own time. Never assume just because someone’s not “talking” that they’re not affected. Always speak respectfully as if people may have suffered because of taboos.

03 Listen empathetically It takes guts to speak about taboos. When someone shares their story listen openly, create space for them to share their experiences and feel seen and heard. Don’t solutionise - only offer up advice if it’s asked for.

04 Use the right words Taboos are often surrounded by euphemisms and language that hides the taboos. We use correct language boldly and without shame.

05 Don’t laugh off discomfort Another tactic used to keep taboos in place is to use ‘humour’ or ‘othering’ to create a barrier to being open to listening. We never use humour to perpetuate taboos.

06 Respect privacy If someone has shared their taboo story it’s still their story, it’s not yours to pass on. We respect the privacy of conversations about taboos and don’t ‘out’ others stories.

07 Speak out against penalties Taboos are policed by enforcing penalties for those affected. These may be overt discrimination or more subtle. Call it out when you see it.

Is there something we're missing? Get in touch, we'd love to hear your ideas and add them to our list.

Developed by Katherine Jennings