6 phrases that easily redirect a tough conversation

We have all been there, haven’t we?

We are in the middle of a tough conversation, and there does not appear to be any way to get the conversation back on track.

Whether it’s hostility or a legitimate diversion, how can we refocus a tough conversation?

It’s too easy to think of your conversation partner as your competition, said Harvard Business Review.

Instead of taking a “me vs. them” mentality, shift your perspective to one of a partnership. This can help keep emotions out of the conversation and things civil. 

The next time that you find yourself in a discussion that got off track or turned hostile, use these phrases to diffuse the situation and refocus your conversation. 

How to redirect a tough conversation

These 6 phrases will help redirect or calm down the conversation to one that is healthier and more constructive for all parties. Give them a try.  

“I understand what you are saying, but let’s refocus for a minute”. 

This is a great way of acknowledging your conversational partner’s position but still redirecting the conversation to another topic. If you are getting off track, this is a good way to help wrangle the conversation back on point. 

“There are plenty of different perspectives here, but remember what we’re talking about.”

Use this as another clever tactic to redirect the focus of the conversation back on point. Pay special attention to your tone because this phrase may come across as condescending if you are not careful.  

“I’m not sure I understand enough about that position. Can we talk about [original topic] instead?”

If your conversational partner shifted the topic to something that you don’t know much about, then it won’t be a very productive discussion. Sometimes, simply asking your partner if you can redirect the conversation to something that you both know something about (or if it got off-topic, back to the original subject of the conversation) is all that is required. 

“I would rather not discuss politics right now, sorry.”

Especially these days, it’s too easy to let politics enter into the conversation. And, politics almost never makes for good conversation (unless, of course, all parties believe the same thing – which is rare!). If the conversation is getting political, be honest and say that you aren’t comfortable talking about politics. This is especially true in the office. Most offices don’t like their staff debating politics at work. Don’t talk about politics in the office. 

“I remember you saying something about your promotion earlier. How did you get that?”

One of the best ways to redirect a tough conversation is to start talking about something positive that your conversational partner has a vested interest in. For example, raises, promotions, vacations, new cars, etc, all give your partner an opportunity to talk about something that they probably enjoy. This tactic can easily diffuse hostile or heated conversations. 

“And speaking of that, did you hear about [mutually interesting topic]?”

Closely related to the technique above, this helps redirect the topic back to something that all parties can easily discuss (rather than a topic that’s only interesting to one or two conversational participants in a larger discussion). 

If you are in the middle of a tough conversation, break out one of these effective phrases to shift the conversation from hostility to civility, and from off-topic to back on topic.