08 July 2007

How to handle annoying but unavoidable conversations

Over at the Fisher Files, Peter has brought up the topic of difficult people a few times. He (and other people) recommend that if you really can't stand someone, eventually you should just leave and get away from him/her. Unfortunately, that is not always possible, the prime example being one's parents or children.

For the benefit of myself and others, I will try to list a few strategies for dealing with irritating but unavoidable people.
  • Recognize that the irritating person does not care about your opinion at all. Give up the idea that you are dealing with a rational adult and think of the person as a child or uncomprehending animal. A sad concept, but true nonetheless.
  • Change the direction of the conversation. This technique works particularly well if the irritating person in question won't stop talking. You can't stop a river from flowing but you can change its course. For example, if your mom is complaining about how stupid you are, switch to topic to "how is dad" and listen to her complain about him instead.
  • Simply end the conversation with a brusque remark that you have to go. I usually say something like "I need to meet someone" or "I have to eat dinner" or "I need to go to bed", then say "Bye/Talk to you later" and hang up if you're on the phone or walk away if you're talking in person.

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