Friday, March 13, 2009

Is This A Conversation I Want To Have? Tools and Techniques To Help You Re-Route The Unwanted Conversation

If a conversation is a two way street, why do we often feel like we are being run off the road? From curious co-worker, to nosey neighbor, from fascinated friend to prying parent, from snooping superior to information seeking Ex - how do you steer the conversation to a parking lot when it is going down a path you do not want to take?

Here are just some of the questions that loved ones, cheerleaders, friends, bosses, parents in the play ground, associates at the water cooler and interested in-laws ask every day that leave the recipient looking for conversation cop. 

  • Are you engaged yet?
  • Did you get the job/promotion?
  • How much was your bonus? 
  • Are you pregnant yet?
  • Was Johnny accepted? 
  • Why was Susie sent home from camp?
  • I heard you separated......what happened?
  • I head your Ex is dating; had an affair; is gay; just had a baby; bought a new house; has a new young thing.....
  • I hear you are dating; having a rough time; struggling with the kids; in a miserable legal mess?
  • I heard you just bought a new house/you have to sell your house......
  • Are you dating again? 
  • What stage cancer is it? 
  • I hear you and Mary are no longer friends?
  • You lost the account/client/deal?
 The opportunity to encroach on personal boundaries is limitless when individuals are not clear about where they stop and someone else begins. Every day we are faced head on with personal boundary violators who drive the conversation over the yellow line. If a boundary is defined as that which fixes a limit or extent, a separating line, a border, a barrier or a dividing line then it is time we give ourselves permission to respect our own boundaries even when others don't.

What if you were suddenly able to steer an unwelcome question to a place where you were more comfortable? Imagine putting an end to inappropriate inquiries and unwanted exploration? Try using the tips, tools and techniques listed  below when you feel the conversation is not going in the direction you want to travel.
  1.  Remember, it is not your job or responsibility to take care of someone by participating in a conversation that leaves you feeling unsafe, awkward, invaded or uncomfortable.
  2. You are in charge of your Conversation Comfort Compass. Determine a base point. Check it regularly.
  3.  Remind yourself daily that it is healthy to set your conversational borders.
  4. When the person asking the question or driving the conversation holds either a real or perceived position of power (for example, boss, parent or intimidating person), remember - you are still entitled to set parameters.
  5. If you are not sure whether you want to respond, take a second, or two or three and say, "I need a moment to think about that" and then decide how you want to respond.  
  6. If you are still not sure if you want to have the conversation say, "I need to think about that, and I will get back to you." You may still choose to let the person know that you do not want to go down that road.
  7. Trust your instinct. If the territory proposed makes you feel uneasy, go with your gut.
  8. Use "I " statements when letting someone know you do not choose to talk about the suggested subject matter. This will be easier if you do not take the line of inquiry personally. 
  9. Review the proposed "lines" listed below, and practice, practice, practice.
  10. When asked a question you do not want to answer try the following lines:
  • It is a personal matter.
  • I prefer not to go there.
  • I am not going there.
  • When there is something to share, I will let you know.
  • I am uncomfortable having this conversation or discussing the issue.
  • This is not something I choose to talk about.
  • Thank you for your concern (this can be added to the end of the above-noted responses).
  • I appreciate your interest/concern (this can be added to the end of the above-noted responses).
  • If the conversation violator persists, simply repeat your response or choose another one and state or restate it calmly and respectfully.
To quote Mark Twain, "Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have a conversation." If the goal of a conversation is to exchange thoughts, ideas and opinions, all participants must feel like they are at the wheel of the dialogue and not in the back seat. So hang on to your boundaries for the ride, and remember it is your responsibility to respect yourself enough to say No to the conversation you don't want to have.

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1 comment:

  1. wise words that I will put in my toolbox. thank you!!