Avoiding difficult topics

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    Transcript: Exercise — Dialogue

    Occasionally during small talk, you might get on to a subject that you don’t feel comfortable talking about. Mike Hogan suggests two possible ways of dealing with this situation: not commenting on the topic, or changing the subject.

    Listen now to this short extract from Roger and Carolyn’s conversation. Listen in particular to how Carolyn avoids commenting on what Roger says and then changes the subject.

    Roger: I’m really interested in what’s happening in the USA at the moment. I must to admit sth.etw. zugebenadmit, I’m quite a fan of Donald Trump.
    Carolyn: Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about him.
    Roger: I think he speaks for the forgotten people in America.
    Carolyn: On the subject of America, I was in California last year.
    Roger: Were you? I was in Texas earlier this year. An amazingfantastisch, tollamazing place. I even went to one of those huge arms fairWaffenmessearms fairs where they sold every kind of gunSchusswaffegun you can imagine.
    Carolyn: I’ve never been interested in guns.
    Roger: I’m a hunter so I was interested in hunting rifleJagdgewehrhunting rifles.
    Carolyn: Anyway, why were you in Texas in the first placeüberhauptin the first place?

    From this conversation, you can see that Carolyn doesn’t really want to talk about Donald Trump or guns. So, first she tries to avoid commenting:

    Carolyn: Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about him.
    Carolyn: I’ve never been interested in guns.

    Then she changes the subject:

    Carolyn: On the subject of America, I was in California last year.
    Carolyn: Anyway, why were you in Texas in the first place?

    OK, now you try. You take the part of Carolyn in the same conversation. First, you will hear Roger. Then we'll tell you what to say. You speak in the pause. Then you will hear Carolyn again. OK? Let’s start.

    Roger: I’m really interested in what’s happening in the USA at the moment. I must admit, I’m quite a fan of Donald Trump.

    • Avoid commenting. 

    Carolyn: Hmm. I’m not sure how I feel about him.

    Roger: I think he speaks for the forgotten people in America.

    • Change the subject. 

    Carolyn: On the subject of America, I was in California last year.

    Roger: Were you? I was in Texas earlier this year. An amazing place. I even went to one of those huge arms fairs where they sold every kind of gun you can imagine.

    • Avoid commenting. 

    Carolyn: I’ve never been interested in guns.

    Roger: I’m a hunter so I was interested in hunting rifles.

    • Change the subject. →

    Carolyn: Anyway, why were you in Texas in the first place?

    How did that work? Were you able to avoid the topic and change the subject? Try this exercise a few times until you feel confident doing so. And as a last resort in a difficult situation, you can always say, “Do you mind if we change the subject?” If you say this, it makes it very clear to your speaking partner that you feel uncomfortable with the subject being discussed. Good luck with your next small-talk conversations.

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