You’re listening to a boss or a colleague, client or friend, and losing patience. Perhaps, the subject is one that doesn’t interest you, or there is nothing more you can contribute. Maybe the topic is unimportant or irrelevant, or boring, or even worse – it’s gossip.

Most of us just don’t know how to end a conversation without being awkward.  We look at our watch.  We check our Smartphones for emails or texts.  We insist there’s an emergency for which we must run. We drop eye contact and start fidgeting. (Since 90% of the most important parts of communication are non-verbal, there’s a good chance we’re passive-aggressively sending a signal of disinterest.)  We might even hear: “Hey, you’re not interested in this?” or “What, you don’t have anything to add here?”  The possible outcome:  insulting or angering the other person.

Whatever the scenario, here is the way to change the subject.  It’s called, “The Re-Direct.”  Here are the steps:

1. Clarify the key point(s) about the current subject you want to change.

Subject A. “Okay, from this conversation, you want to re-train us all on how to communicate with our direct reports.”

Subject B. “You’re telling me a personal story about Gus.”

2. Agree on how to move forward.

Subject A. “You’re asking me to review the schedule to see when my team is free to take the training.  I will get back to you by COB Thursday.”

Subject B. “This is awkward for me. I ask that you please don’t include me in Gus’ personal business.”

3. Assert that there’s something you want to say, kindly, and insert a benefit to the other person for hearing you.

“While I have your attention, I’d like to discuss how we can improve our work with IT for the new client assignment. I think this will help us prepare for the 2016 renewal of the account if we can address this now.”

4. Speak Up

“My team does not have enough access to IT support to meet the client’s demands.  I was wondering if we can add more IT people to help cover the scope of this project?  I can site a few examples of our current issues.”

5. Show Appreciation

“Thank you for taking the time now to discuss this matter with me.”

So regardless of the topic you’d like to change, re-direct. Acknowledge what you’ve heard, then gently ease from the current subject (agreeing or stating how to move forward) and right to the benefit of the other person for listening to what you have to say.  Lastly, show gratitude for having the space to speak up.

Diplomatically yours,


Copyright, PointMaker Communications, Inc., 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jackie Kellso and PointMaker Communications, Inc., with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.