5 ways to handle uncomfortable conversations at work
We spend the majority of our time in the office -- so it’s only natural to get sucked into office gossip and conflicts.
While differences in opinion are healthy (let's be honest, not everyone is going to agree with you), knowing how to handle an uncomfortable conversation is an important skill, especially at work.
Here are 5 ways to courteously shut down awkward conversations at work—without offending your co-workers.
Politely push the topic to a more appropriate time - Whether you’re trying to avoid a certain topic, or you just want to answer your chatty colleague’s non-work related question, saying “This is an important conversation, but can we talk about it after XY?” puts the focus back on work while still addressing what your colleague is saying.
Acknowledge and then move on - Have you ever been in the middle of a conversation wondering why everyone left? Don't ever leave anyone with that feeling while you're having a conversation with someone. Always close the conversation, for example: "I appreciate your thoughts, it’s certainly worth pondering over-but I need to get back to work now. Please excuse me”. The point is to let your colleague feel heard without having to go too deep into an uncomfortable dialogue.
Be comfortable with silence - Everyone has those moments, “Why did I just say that?" Pause for a few seconds and then apologize instead of making an even more awkward remark.
Be direct – Another way to handle it is to simply confront the person. You can courteously ask, "Why are you sharing this information with me?" and prompt the other person to change the topic. When gossipmongers realize you’re not interested, they’ll back down.
And when things get noisy - Loud and talkative co-workers in a small office space can be annoying and asking them to lower their pitch can be stressful because you don’t want to appear rude. Well, brace yourself for a diplomatic conversation and be careful while choosing your words.
You can try something like, “I understand it can be challenging working in such close quarters, is there anything I can do to improve your work experience?” When it’s your turn, you can subtly say, “it’s sometimes difficult to concentrate, as I’m a bit sensitive to loud noise around me. I was wondering if you might have any suggestions”.