HUMAN RESOURCES / AUG. 09, 2014
version 4, draft 4

Knowing When To Walk Away From A Conversation

Communication is a big part of your daily working routine. Some communication is focused around business and being part of those discussions is key. When things move from the business aspects into something more personal, you need to know when, and how, to walk away from the conversation. It isn’t always clear why, or how, but the ramifications of personal discussions at work can actually negatively impact your career in more ways than you expect.

Religion and Politics

In most cases, religion and politics are the two topics you should stay away from. Everyone has their own opinions and most are so dedicated to those particular opinions that it is a very wise choice to not get involved at all. What if a conversation naturally moves to these topics of conversation though?

If you get stuck in a conversation that covers a sensitive topic, try to be clear with the people involved. Let them know that you wish to discuss something else and would like to keep away from these particular points. If you are pushed, explain that your place of business is not a place that is appropriate for these particular topics.

There will be times where people will continue. Maybe you will overhear the conversation from someone in the break room. Ignoring the point is often not the best course of action. It may be wise to cut in to the conversion, as polite as possible, and simply ask them to switch topics. Most people will understand, but if they insist, explain that it is against the company policy or that it may be offensive to others in the room.

The tricky part is when you get stuck in a conversation and find yourself actually getting involved. This happens to all of us. As soon as you realise what is happening simply excuse yourself. If the issue continues each time you are around the individuals, insist that they keep the conversations lighter or talk about business. There is rarely a reason to run to a manager about these issues, so instead just remove yourself from the situation.

More Sensitive Topics

Things happen around the world that are done by extremists from certain groups of people. After the attacks of September 11 it became common for people to speak poorly of Muslims throughout the United States. This is completely unacceptable in every single case. Generalisations about entire groups of individuals may seem okay when everyone is jumping in on the conversation but in most organisations this is grounds for termination. Remember, generalising and speaking poor of others based on the actions of a few is racism.

Advice and Other Business Related Issues

At times you will get in a situation where someone is giving you advice that is unwarranted. They will often tell you how to do your job better or what you could do more effectively in your personal life. Thank them for their concern and ask them to switch subjects.

More importantly, you will often find yourself in a group that gossips about things that are going on around the office. This manager may be getting fired, or that individual may have done something that got him into a role of leadership and so on. This is not a good way to represent yourself and if you allow yourself to be part of this conversation, once it comes out that these individuals were making these accusations, you will be included in that group. Make sure you simply walk away from these conversations as soon as they start.

Image Via: Shicoo

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