We’ve all been there:
A conversation takes a turn for the worse and becomes negative, depressing or uncomfortable.
How do you turn that around?
Here is a look at some key phrases that can make a conversation go from broke to woke in no time.
1) “Did you hear about…?”
Asking “did you hear about…?” is a great way to switch gears in a conversation.
You may be talking about a horrible natural disaster or illness in the family, but with this phrase you can segue into something else.
Say you are discussing an illness of your loved one and the person you’re speaking with now starts discussing their family issues and how they never reconciled with their late father who died of heart disease.
It’s getting really heavy and you’re not sure you’re in an emotional place to hear this one out.
So you say:
“Did you hear about the new technology that they’re using for heart transplants? It’s practically a miracle.”
In this way you stayed on a related topic but switched it to quite a positive subject about lifesaving medical technology.
2) “Tell me more about…”
When you ask somebody to tell you more about a certain subject it opens up a conversation to new subjects.
You can move on to other areas that you find more interesting and try to steer the interaction in a more positive direction.
Say somebody is telling you about how much she hates where she lives and how her apartment complex is ugly and costs too much and she despises her neighborhood, especially when she has to take her dog out for a walk and there is trash on the streets.
Now the easy option would be to buy into what she says and feed into this negative downward cycle.
But the way to turn this around is to spot the one thing she didn’t complain about: her dog.
“I understand. Tell me more about your dog?”
3) “You have an amazing smile…”
This phrase is perhaps best left for an interaction where you’re interested in someone romantically, or just want to cheer them up.
Telling someone they have an amazing smile is a way to completely break the frame of what was being discussed and get over any negativity.
You’re telling a person a compliment in the middle of what may be quite a heavy conversation and it can turn everything around.
4) “I love your idea of…”
The next great phrase to use is to express praise for an idea or concept this other person has spoken about and turn the topic to something they have said you found impressive.
By bringing up something they’ve said you accomplish a twofold task:
You show appreciation for the person or people you are speaking with;
And you change the subject to something that they have an interest in but that will also move in a more proactive direction.
5) “I have a joke for you…”
When all else fails, you can also go for a joke.
Telling a well-timed joke is a nice way to break the tension of a difficult conversation and bring up something a bit lighter.
When you tell a funny joke, even the most depressed person may begin laughing.
And laughter is a great way to break up some dark vibes that have come into an interaction.
6) “You matter.”
These days it’s so easy to overwhelmed by the pace of change and the “us versus them” mentality that’s predominating in many places.
Conversations can sometimes become very negative because people are increasingly isolated and feeling unheard and unneeded.
Telling somebody they matter is a power move.
It’s only relevant, however, if you really mean it, so don’t just say this to be nice.
Saying “you matter” can be the start of a whole new way of looking at things, especially for somebody who’s felt they’re ostracized from society or having healthy roles in their life.
7) “Your voice matters.”
In addition, you can let somebody know that their voice matters.
Feeling unheard is painful and can lead to some very frustrated and tortured emotions.
The key to keep in mind here is that you don’t necessarily have to agree or see things the same way as the person or people you’re talking to.
You just have to let them know that you hear them and that you recognize the value of their voice in the conversation.
It’s really that simple and can turn a despairing interaction right around.
8) “It’s OK to feel how you feel…”
When a conversation gets sad, intensely negative or awkward, it can be really reassuring to just let someone know that it’s OK to feel how they feel.
I know that in my case I’ll sometimes say offensive things for shock value or just to see somebody’s reaction.
If they react poorly or reject me at that point it feeds into the narrative that I’m misunderstood.
But if you respond to somebody who’s expressing uncomfortable or even exaggerated emotions that you might find offensive by telling them it’s OK, this calms the person and lets them know they’re not invisible.
Whether or not you agree, you’re letting them know that you’re reserving judgment and you’re there to listen.
9) “It sounds like you’ve been through a lot.”
When you say “it sounds like you’ve been through a lot” it shows that you recognize somebody’s pain.
Oftentimes, a conversation can take a real turn for the worse when somebody feels they are misunderstood or alone.
This is a painful feeling that’s hard to escape, particularly for somebody who may have been marginalized or bullied in the past.
But when you let them know that you recognize their suffering and see them for who they are, it lifts a huge weight off their shoulders.
This brings me to the final of the important phrases that can instantly turn a negative conversation around:
10) “I’m proud of you for getting through that.”
Many times conversations turn negative when they turn to painful topics and trauma.
There is nothing wrong with discussing the trauma of the past and what we have been through in life.
It can be clarifying and cleansing.
But when the atmosphere gets dark and it seems like all hope is lost, saying “I’m proud of you for getting through that” is a way to show that you respect and recognize the strength of who you’re talking to.
Even if you don’t fully understand what somebody has been through, expressing pride in their courage is a deep affirmation that will move the conversation back onto a positive level.
Turning a conversation around
Turning a conversation around isn’t as difficult as it sounds.
It’s all about having the patience and insight to say the right thing, or nothing at all, when things start to take a turn for the worse.
There’s no formula for turning a conversation around.
It’s all about having a sensitivity to what’s being discussed and the insight and spontaneity to turn it around to something more uplifting and empowering.