How to Smoothly Change the Subject to Suit Your Agenda
We have all been involved in a conversation we needed to retreat from. When this happens, we need a conversation change. However, it is not always easy to change the subject in a smooth manner. The number one rule for changing a subject is always finding a place to speak. This can be exceedingly difficult if you are passive or have a dominate speaker across from you.
Changing the subject is a subtle art. There are many ways to do it and it rarely involves having to impose your voice on the entire conversation. However, it is important to be able to change the subject effectively and efficiently. The longer it takes to change the subject, the less likely it is to actually happen. Follow some basic tricks to the trade and be able to get the subject on the path you want it on.
The Subtle Art Form
In martial arts, there is a style called Aikido. In Aikido, one does not attack one’s opponent, nor does one look to impose force onto him. Instead, Aikido takes the force generated by the opponent, and uses it to subdue the attack. Changing the subject in the conversation can use much the same technique in verbal form.
When a conversation comes up which you do not want to partake in, attacking the subject or subject-type often will not help. In fact, it may solidify the conversation you do not want to have. Instead, finding a positive part of the conversation and focusing into that particular detail can be a simple way to move the conversation.
For instance, say your mother asks you when you plan to get married. Instead of reacting negatively toward her for asking, try focusing on someone else’s marriage plans. Of course, you will need to know someone who is getting married. “Oh, by the way, did you hear [enter name] may be getting married to [enter name] soon? Where do you think the wedding will be held?”
You have moved the conversation to focus on someone else. You have begun to move away from the direct question, but you are not being obtuse or reacting negatively. Just like with Aikido, finding a small off-ramp discussion can work. Also like in Aikido, you can turn the situation back to the other person. “I’ve always wanted to ask, Mom. How and when did you and Dad decide on marriage?” The conversation has turned back onto the other person, but the topic item you wanted to avoid (getting married) has been removed.
Recognizing When a Topic Needs Changing
Sometimes we are not trying to avoid a conversation. Rather, we may be discussing something and realize it is not appropriate or is boring the other person. When this occurs, it is best to find a smooth transition. The reason you do not want an abrupt transition is that it exposes the other persons’ lack of interest. This can make for an awkward situation.
Being able to find an “off ramp” to the conversation makes the transition easy and without making anyone uncomfortable. No matter what the conversation is, you can find a related but separate topic to engage in. This is usually the best course of action when someone is angered or annoyed by a topic of conversation.
If someone is bored by the conversation, a different tactic can be employed. Those who are bored are often those who cannot discuss an issue in depth. Usually the best course of action is to find a topic they can discuss. Hopefully you already know what fields they are able to speak on. If you have no idea what it is they are capable of speaking on, there is no reason not to ask. This can cause a rather clunky transition sometimes, but with a little foresight and practice, it can be done.
If All Else Fails, “Before I Forget”
When you have no other viable option and cannot lead a conversation to change, the smoothest transition possible is the “Before I forget.” It can be done in a smooth manner if you time it right. All it takes is knowing how to enter it into a conversation. It is not a difficult method, but can be hard to plant into a conversation correct.
When your opinion is asked and you have a moment to control the direction of the conversation, simply respond briefly and then add “… Oh, and before I forget…” and take the conversation in a new direction. The way to make the transition smooth is by relating it to what was just said. Make it sound as if the previous statement or question reminded you of something you meant to ask earlier.
Things to Avoid
When attempting a transition there are particular items to avoid. Do not toot your own horn in order to change the conversation. It is one thing to speak of yourself in the midst of a transition. You can relate a story of yours to a particular instance to move away from a section of the conversation. Do not become a braggart to focus the conversation solely on you.
If you find yourself imposing you as the subject no matter where the conversation goes, there is a problem. Do not ask closed questions to change the subject. Closed questions are those that can be answered with a single utterance. What you want is an open-ended question that allows the other person to engage in the conversation.
This helps carry the conversation forward rather than revert it back to the previous topic. Most important, do not FORCE a change in conversation. Remember the concept of the Aikido martial art. You want to lead the conversation down a different path. Trying to force it or abruptly stop it will likely cause an adverse reaction. Remember when all else fails, utilize the “Before I forget” method to steer the conversation toward or away from whatever you feel is necessary.
Image credited to claimpain.net; trinleychodron.wordpress.com; inc.com; grist.org
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