Thanks to the previous blog, you know how to talk with ease to someone and swap the first few sentences. But that doesn’t always mean you’re out of the woods. What if you had a great start to the conversation, but you’ve completely misjudged the person you are talking to, and he or she begins to open and discuss topics that aren’t to your liking? What should you do if the conversation takes an unamusing turn, or concerns a topic that is of little interest to you, and which you don’t even know anything about, or even something that hurts you? I will try to guide you through elegantly taking the helm of such a conversation, and turning it in another direction.
How to Escape
- One thing that works splendidly is the magic phrase “by the way”. Latch onto some useful word in the conversation, say “by the way”, and then appear to recall some interesting fact associated with this word or idea. This will shift your partner’s attention to a completely different object or reality. For example: “By the way, do you remember when…”
- Propose returning to the previous topic of conversation, indicating there is something you’d still like to add to it.
- Another handy tactic is praise. By this I mean that if a conversation partner is passionately discussing, for example, the political situation, you can show admiration of how much information he or she has with respect to the issue and ask a question like, “How do you come to know all this?”
- If the topic of the conversation is uncomfortable, try to keep silent and not comment on or contribute to the conversation. Hopefully after a while your partner will be uncomfortable speaking into the silence, and will change the theme or suggest that you do so yourself.
- If you happen to be in a group of people, another way to deal with a topic that you do not want to talk about is to try to make eye contact with someone present. Find out if he or she feels as you do, and indicate you too would rather not be listening to this, and then work together to change the conversation topic. For that, the best tactic is to listen carefully again and wait for the right word or phrase to make one of you think of any connection to another topic, which will redirect the conversation painlessly. For example, imagine a situation at a restaurant, where your colleague is disappointed that the fish he ordered is not prepared to his liking. To avoid discussing poor-quality food or bad cooks, engage his attention with a story from your recent vacation where you saw incredibly beautiful fish while diving in the sea. It’s a great digression that will give you a chance to talk about travel, something usually of interest to everyone, instead of a failed dinner, making the conversation enjoyable and giving everyone a chance to join in with their own experiences.
The easiest subjects to redirect a conversation to:
- The weather
- Sports teams and games
- Popular television shows or movies
- Popular restaurants
- The best places for a vacation
You can’t go too wrong with these topics, they are entertaining and, in most cases, uncontroversial.
- Another way to manipulate the “opponent” in conversation is to start talking about absurdities. The greater the absurdity, the greater the surprise of the other person, forcing them to respond to it. This tactic, however, must be chosen with great care and you always need to consider whether it will be acceptable in the given company.
- You can also try to tell a long, not very entertaining monotonous story on the subject at hand. It takes a bit of imagination, but might prove to be a way to get another speaker to interrupt the conversation without too much hesitation and try to change the subject himself. Even here, however, it is necessary to consider whether this is appropriate or not in the given situation.
- Likewise, with sensitivity to the conversation environment, you can try the opposite, speaking incredibly fast. This could be a signal for others to silence you and seek salvation in a completely different topic.
A few specific tips on how to react when…
- …a subject begins to be discussed that could start an argument
“Please, let’s talk about something else, because you know that there are so many different views on this. There are many other, more pleasant, topics. Have you read any interesting books recently?”
- …someone asks about your former love, who’s left you recently, and who you’re still not over yet.
“I’m sorry, but that was, and is, difficult for me. But hopefully this will give me the opportunity to meet someone who will be as passionate as a skier as I am. Do you like skiing, have you been to the mountains this year?”
“I’m sorry, but that subject brings up bad memories, and I’d prefer to talk about something else.”
- …someone reminds you of the fact that you did not get the job you were hoping for.
“I was disappointed, but at now, thanks to the interview, I have a better idea about what I want and what others want from me.”
- …people begin talking badly about someone who is not present or criticizing one of your acquaintances. Pretend to look off into the distance, smile and maybe ask them about their most recent vacation. • … the discussion turns to something you have no clue about. “Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about this topic, so can we discuss something we both enjoy?” When things come to their worst, simply excuse yourself from the conversation When worse comes to worst, and your partner in the conversation just does not see your effort to dodge the topic, you are fully entitled to apologize, go to the toilet and believe that when you return, the previous topic will be forgotten. If, however, the person doesn’t give up and picks up the conversation where you left off, then make a polite apology and go talk to someone else. Sometimes this is the only way to zigzag out of an unpleasant conversation. In any case, the amount of energy and nerves you decide to devote to hopeless conversation or whether you prefer to tactfully use some suitable trick to make the conversation as pleasant as possible, is entirely up to you.