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Exiting a conversation with grace

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in Career Management,Office Politics,Workplace Communication

We’ve all been put in situations where opinionated people force us to talk about something that we don’t care to discuss. Whether they enjoy discussing politics, office politics, religion, sports or try to persuade you to perform a task “their” way, you just can’t seem to avoid the discussions.

What do you say in these awkward, challenging moments that allows you to speak your truth, yet leave another’s respect intact? Try out the following techniques:

The first method
is the “broken record technique,” which involves repeating a version of your ‘no’ over and over. Say an older colleague tries to get you to join her favorite networking group. Your response: “Thank you for thinking of me, and I’m going to say no.” If she doesn’t take no for an answer, feed back her words, but remain firm, “I understand that you believe your particular group would benefit me, and I’m going to say no.”  End of discussion.

The second technique is one I learned from Barbara Walters’ book, How to Talk to Practically Anybody about Practically Anything, and can be used alone or in conjunction with the broken-record method. When a co-worker brings up a topic and asks your stance, simply say, “I appreciate that you think so but I don’t discuss politics/religion ... ever. However, it’s been interesting to hear your views.”

Now perhaps your issue is with a co-worker on a joint assignment. When he insists his way is the only way to do it, you can politely point out that it is a joint assignment and finish with, “Your perspective is very valuable and I’ll give it some thought.”

However, if he demands instant gratification, say, “This could be a challenge. I’m interested to see how we’ll resolve this issue.” That tells him that despite your difference of opinion, you’re willing to cooperate to make this work. If he remains insistent, say, “Again, I see it differently and will need some time to consider your input.” Go back to the broken-record technique, if needed. It works.

Once you put these techniques into practice, you’ll see how much easier it is to deal with opinionated people with opposing viewpoints. Remember, opposing doesn’t have to mean combative. It is possible to exit the conversation with grace.

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