How To Shut Down Uncomfortable Conversations At The Office

Every once in a while, we all run into those uncomfortable conversations that just don’t feel right for the workplace. They could range from the weekend shenanigans to some downright heated arguments about sensitive topics.

While everyone has the right to voice his or her opinions, everyone also reserves the right to walk away from any uncomfortable conversations at the office. Politics is a common trouble spot where people’s opinions are bound to clash. In fact, it is generally a good idea to keep politics out of workplace discussions.

So, how do you shake off those nasty conversations without having to raise temperatures?

These three magic phrases out to help you wiggle out of those uncomfortable conversations:

1. “I do respect your opinion, but I’d rather not talk about this here at the office.”

Many times, it helps to just come out directly and shut the conversation down. In this case, you’ll have to be as cordial as you can be. It is likely that colleagues do not want to make you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about a sensitive topic. Therefore, grab the opportunity and speak up. They’ll appreciate to know your stand directly from you rather than some wild gossip later on.

You can also lighten your response a little bit. Inform them that you recently made a rule to never discuss such topics at work. Or you can say, “Oh boy, isn’t it a bit too early to talk about (the exact topic) this?” You won’t come out as a bluenose but rather, someone who cares about preserving work relationships.

2. “This is an important discussion. Could we discuss it after …..”

Sometimes, you will need to push the uncomfortable discussion to a more appropriate time. You may not be in a good frame of mind or may just be too busy and stressed out. In this case, your reaction and response to an argument may not be the best.

Always endeavor to have such discussions when you are in a good mood or when you are levelheaded. In fact, diverting it to a later time is more likely to make the other participant less likely to bring it up again. Have them know that you are trying to focus on work at the moment and would be happy to discuss it at a later time like say, over lunch or during happy hour.

3. “I did hear about that. Oh, by the way, did you also hear about (insert less uncomfortable story)?”

We happen to do this all the time at during small talks at the office. One moment you are babbling along a common subject line and the next moment, you have jumped ship to an entirely unrelated topic. You can also apply this very tactic whenever you land into uncomfortable conversations at the office.

However, don’t be too obvious that you are completely changing the topic. They may just insist on upon the undesirable topic, thinking that you are probably distracted. Also, you do not want to come out as if you are discounting what they are saying. Instead, find a way to have a smooth transition to a more comfortable topic for you.

It’s highly unlikely that you won’t find yourself in uncomfortable conversations from time to time. The team environment of modern day workplaces ensures that there will be a lot of interaction. Therefore, those interactions will almost guarantee that you will hit some murky spots along the way. Openness and complete honesty will go a long way in making work enjoyable for everyone in the office.

What works for you? Do you have your own set of phrases that help you wiggle out of uncomfortable situations? Share with us in the comments.