Signs that You Should
Disengage a Conversation

Expressive Conversation

Have you ever felt you should disengage a conversation much sooner than it ended? When a conversation leaves you thinking to yourself, “Wow, that went on far too long!” it’s time to recognize the signs that you should move on.

Follow the Signs

Philosopher Adam Smith perceptively noted that people are much more anxious that our friends share our enemies than they share our other friends. Think about this. Speaking with someone who likes the same people and ideas that you do makes for an easy conversation.

But when the topic turns to someone you don’t like, an idea that you are adamantly against, or a concept you cannot grasp, disagreement occurs. This can easily lead to discord, argument, worse. Recognizing the signs that you should disengage a conversation can be help save you from this type of escalation.

What are the signs that conversation needs to be disengaged?

  • Emotions are elevating, anger surfaces.
  • Language becomes unfriendly.
  • Tone of voice becomes intense or shrill.
  • You have the sense of someone wanting to drill you.
  • You notice you are becoming defensive.

These signs are a warning signal that your conversation is entering dangerous territory. And I would advise not going there.

How to Disengage a Conversation

When politics, religion, or any other emotionally triggering topic happens to show up in dinner conversation, friends who know you only as the friendly person you are, might happen to have views in common that differ from your own. You might suddenly feel as if you’re among strangers, even though these are your close friends.

Try exiting the topic without inserting door-jamming remarks:

  • “Don’t mean to interrupt, but I can’t help but notice the energy in the room this evening.”
  • “Dang, we’ve been friends for so long! I hadn’t realized your intensity on certain subjects.”
  • “Not meaning to interrupt, or change the subject abruptly, but isn’t this dessert amazing?
  • “Well, I want to talk about your pot roast recipe! It’s so yummy!”

Pull instead of push:

  • Compliment the person who is pushing your buttons. “Mary, I like the way you stand up for what you believe.”
  • “I apologize for my intensity. Sorry for pushing back at you.”
  • Let others “see” how you feel.  “I am feeling like a tight-rope walker about to lose her balance.”
  • Let others see that you approve of differing views.  “Sarah, I never thought of it from that perspective. You make an interesting point.”

Don’t make it awkward.

  • Validate any concerns or frustrations you may have observed.  “I’m not trying to convince you to change anything about you or your views.”
  • Re-affirm your belief in personal choice.  “Josh, I would never tell you what to believe or do.”
  • Take a moment to breathe and smile.  “Ah, I’m reminding myself where I am. So lovely to be with you all.”

We’ve all learned these lessons before, but if you are like me, lessons present themselves more than once. Re-framing the conversation by pausing to take a breath and smile is usually a good ending.

And be positive. Remember that conversation is the best way to de-clutter life as you try to express your thoughts. Others are just like you!

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