How to Avoid the Conversation Squatter
The Conversation Squatter can ruin a perfectly pleasant chat. How do you avoid this conversation bomb? Follow Modern Manners Guy's 3 easy tips.
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Tip #2: Move the Conversation
When David and Matt found themselves on the receiving end of a Conversation Squatter, they were baffled, but chalked it up to a weird one-off and went on with their conversation in the same location.
Big mistake. Wouldn't you know it, Sue soon returned with another baseless opinion. David and Matt were annoyed but felt uncomfortable telling her to mind her own business. As a manners expert, I understand and appreciate that. However, had they just moved their conversation to a different location, they could have avoided her altogether.
The easiest way to avoid a confrontation is to simply walk away. Sometimes it’s hard, depending on how heated the situation is and how confined of an area you're in. However, by walking away you essentially get to start over in a new location.
For example, a few weeks ago I was at my daughter's gymnastics class and I witnessed the following exchange: Jill was talking to another parent about a mutual friend’s new job. Suddenly, a Conversation Squatter called Barb hopped in to say how she simply couldn't stand their mutual friend. Not only was the Conversation Squatter discourteous, but it was also not the time or place for such opinions. Jill did not want to get involved or debate the point, so she had to improvise. She simply excused herself to make a call, thus taking herself out of the discussion. If the other parent and the Conversation Squatter wanted to continue bashing their friend, that’s fine, but Jill wanted no part of it.
Tip #3: Change the Subject
In Tip #2, I gave an example of avoidance - the act of keeping away from or preventing a situation from escalating. Avoidance is a mannerly person’s go-to weapon to combat people who love confrontation or gossiping. But sometimes you may be confined in tighter quarters than an open soccer field, where walking away is not an option. When you’re stuck between a rock and a Conversation Squatter, you have to act fast, get creative, and take control. The best way to do this is to simply change the subject to something unrelated and non-controversial and pray that it's too boring for the Conversation Squatter.
See also: How to Handle Awkward Situations
Whatever you’re talking about is your business, not anyone else's, so you don’t owe the Conversation Squatter anything. For example, if you’re talking sports and the Conversation Squatter hops in to offer their opinion, grab the steering wheel and veer the discussion onto something else. As in, "Sure, the Cardinals are having a great season, but can you believe what's happening in the Caribbean? That storm is a whopper!" If they still hang on, do it again. You and the person you’re talking to will be on the same page, so you can work as a team. "Oh yeah, I didn't know the pitcher was a drug addict, but that Caribbean storm is really something."
This way, you keep the Conversation Squatter from dominating your discussion. They will likely get bored with the lack of controversy in your conversation and move on to another unsuspecting victim.
Do you have a story about a conversation gone bad due to a Conversation Squatter? How did you handle it? Post all the details in the comment section below. As always, if you have another manners question, I look forward to hearing from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @MannersQDT, and of course, check back next week for more Modern Manners Guy tips for a more polite life.
And check out the expert tips on navigating any workplace in my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career. It's available in paperback, ebook, and even audiobook format!