I drive by a tattoo shop every day on my way home from work. Every so often I will notice people smoking out front. Today, I pulled into the parking lot and made my way toward two tattooed and pierced gentleman enjoying a cigarette. One had multiple piercings on his face while the other was mostly covered in tattoos. To start a spiritual conversation, I asked them if I could ask a few questions about religion and tattoos and they quickly obliged. I first asked them if they noticed if people get tattoos based on their religious beliefs. They responded with an emphatic yes and informed me that Christians come in all of the time asking for the "fish" tattoo symbolizing Christianity. I then asked if they noticed if people in their profession had a particular religious preference, and one of the men commented that he was Presbyterian. He said that he feels quite comfortable in the church and the numerous piercings in his nose, mouth, cheeks, and ears have been embraced by his church. I was just about to turn things more personal when a young lady came out to smoke. It was obvious that she knew the two gentlemen and she quickly jumped into the conversation. Well aware that she got into the conversation a little late, I tried one more question that skated around the issue. I asked them if they felt well received by the Christian community. All three indicated that they have been well received except for "fundamentalists." I expounded on that question a little more to help the female get used to my presence. I obviously clashed while wearing dress slacks and a collared shirt. Now that all three had a smile on their face and felt comfortable around me, I attempted to get personal once again. This is when we were suddenly interrupted by another man who came out for a cigarette. Realizing that I was extremely outnumbered at this point and one of them had never had a chance to meet me, I decided to abort. The situation seemed more and more unsafe as I was running out of questions and time. I left all four of them with a million dollar bill which left the female exclaiming, "This is awesome!"
When speaking with groups, if one arrives late, that individual most likely will be the first to attack. They were not there when you established the relationship and built rapport. All three liked me so I had that going for me, but deep down their body language led me to believe that personal questions would be out of bounds. I could be wrong, but I felt like I made a wise decision.