As women, we have all been in conversations with men who try to cross the line by being flirtatious or inappropriate with unwelcome comments. It can be uncomfortable and awkward, leaving us feeling trapped and unsure of how to navigate the conversation, especially when it's your boss. The key to getting out of these situations gracefully is to know how to change the subject without coming across as rude or uninterested. In this blog post, we will provide you with tips and techniques on how to do so effectively.
1. Acknowledge and Redirect
The first thing you want to do when someone tries to steer the conversation down a flirtatious or inappropriate path is to acknowledge what they said and then quickly redirect the conversation to a different topic. For example, if a man starts commenting on your physical appearance, you could say something like, "Thank you, but let's focus on the project at hand. Have you made any progress on it?"
Depending on the person on the receiving end, this could be taken personally or simply taken the wrong way and offend them, causing more problems down the road.
If you have experience with this person and redirecting the conversation doesn't work, it may be a good idea to add a team member to your interactions and make it a point to always schedule meetings. Try to avoid informal, unscheduled talks in your or his office. You could say something like, "I'm really busy right now, let's schedule a meeting this afternoon. Does this time work for you?" If having another team member present for scheduled meetings isn't enough, bring the issue up to your HR department as soon as you can. Read our blog, Steps for Preparing to Bring an Issue to Human Resources.
2. Use Humor
One of the most effective ways to diffuse an uncomfortable situation is to use humor. If a man makes an inappropriate comment or joke, respond with a witty one-liner that acknowledges what he said, but also makes it clear that you are not interested in going down that road. For example, if he comments on your outfit saying, "Wow, you look stunning today!" you could respond with, "Thanks, but my fashion sense is not up for discussion today. Let's talk about something more interesting."
3. Be Polite but Firm
If the man doesn't get the hint and continues to push the conversation in an uncomfortable direction, it's time to be more firm with your redirection. Use polite but direct language to communicate that you are not interested in continuing the conversation in that way. For example, say, "I'm sorry, but I don't feel comfortable discussing my personal life with you. Let's get back to the topic at hand."
4. Offer a Suggestion
Another effective way to change the subject is to offer a suggestion about what you should talk about. This gives the other person an easy way out, and it also allows you to steer the conversation in a direction that is more comfortable for both parties. For instance, you can say, "I would love to hear your thoughts on the latest industry news. Have you read any interesting articles lately?"
5. End the Conversation
If all else fails and the person continues to disregard your attempts at redirection, it's okay to end the conversation altogether. You have the right to participate in conversations that are respectful and engaging. Politely excuse yourself and end the conversation, "I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me, but I have some work to get back to now. Let's catch up at a better time."
In conclusion, changing the subject during a flirtatious or inappropriate encounter can be a tricky situation to maneuver. However, these tips and techniques will help you gracefully redirect the conversation in a respectful manner. Remember, you have the power to participate in conversations that are respectful and engaging. By using polite, direct, and even humorous language, you can get out of uncomfortable situations with ease. So the next time you find yourself in a conversation that makes you feel uncomfortable, use these tips to stay in control of the conversation and protect your boundaries.