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I'd Rather Talk About Something Else... 3 Steps to Controlling the Direction of a Conversation

The hottest news topic isn’t always the one you want to talk about, even when it seems like that’s ALL anyone is talking about.

The coronavirus dominates our conversations as much as the headlines right now. While it can be helpful to talk through the latest information and comforting to know other people share the same feelings or concerns, engaging in that conversation over and over can also lead to anxiety and increased levels of stress and worry. 

Stop having a stressful conversation on repeat by changing your approach to small talk.

If you would rather talk about something else, alter your approach to small talk. Try these three adjustments in the conversations you’re already having both remotely and in-person.

 

Dial in open-ended questions. You can’t count on anyone else to change the subject so control the direction of the conversation from the outset by asking a more targeted questions. Using “How are you?” or “What’s new?” as a conversation starter open the door to talk about the latest news, fears, worries, concerns, etc.… 

It’s true that everything from sports to toilet paper to vacations can come back to the coronavirus right now, but you’ll have a better chance of introducing a new topic with a strategic opening question and prepared conversation starters. Here are a few ideas: 

  • To the person wearing Seahawks gear: “Hey, what do you think the Seahawks are going to do in the draft?”
  • To a colleague: “Good morning! I just finished the show I was watching last night. Do you have a recommendation on a series I should check out?”
  • To a friend: “You know what I just realized today? It’s been forever since I tried a new restaurant. Do you have any suggestions?”
  • To colleague getting coffee: “I’ve never thought to ask you this before, but when did coffee become part of your daily routine?”
  • And of course, honesty in a conversation works wonders for setting the tone: “I’d rather talk about anything other than the coronavirus so I’m asking everyone what book they’re reading right now.”

Elevating your approach to small talk elevates the entire conversation.   

Establish a new “normal” follow up. More strategic small talk leads to more productive follow up opportunities. That means you have something new to talk about for at least the next 3-5 conversations making it easier to skip “How are you?” in favor of talking about the new show you’re currently binging on Netflix thanks to your colleague’s recommendation.

Your “follow up arc” could include separate interactions about; your initial impressions, how the storyline/series is developing, things you fact-checked while watching, the rabbit hole you went down researching an actor, and the next possible binge-worthy show.

You won’t have to search for an alternative to “How are you?” because you will have established a new conversation and follow up norm.

 

Evaluate YOUR responses. You might not be asking the question, “How are you?” but plenty of other people will. You can’t count on the people around you to ask better questions, but you can be prepared with better answers. Don’t stick to the script. (You, know the one goes, “How are you?” “Good." "How are you?” “Terrible, I’m worried about the coronavirus.” Which brings it right back to the conversation we were trying to avoid.)

Plan your response ahead of time and direct the conversation toward your interests.

  • “How are you?” “I’m hopped up on coffee because I stayed up too late binging a new show.”
  • “I’m already winning the day with as much work as I’ve done before noon.”

At the end of the day, you do you. If you want to change the conversation, take it upon yourself to change your approach to small talk.

You don’t have to talk about the coronavirus or any other topic that’s infiltrated your conversations lately. Be strategic. Be intentional. Be different in the way you approach small talk.

 

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