Managers Need To Learn How To Deal With Dead-End Conversations

Managers Need To Learn How To Deal With Dead-End Conversations

Managers need to learn how to turn around conversations that they can’t walk away from
Managers need to learn how to turn around conversations that they can’t walk away from
Image Credit: Benny Lin

Let’s face it. A big part of the job of being an effective manager is the art of conversation. During an average day, we end up talking with a lot of different people about a lot of different things. It would be fair to say that our conversations have a lot to do with our ability to get things done. However, then there are THOSE conversations. You know the ones that I’m talking about. Dead-end conversations.

The Problem With Dead-End Conversations

Just exactly what is the best way to define what a dead-end conversation is? These are the conversations that you cannot just walk away from. You are probably talking with a manager, a colleague, or somebody else who is important to you. However, a dead-end conversation ends up with you getting bogged down listening to the other person arguing, complaining, or just going on and on about something and you don’t have the manager skills to get out of it. The final result is that this ends up wasting your time. We all wish that there was some form of manager training that would teach us how to deal with situations like this.

Just to give managers some hope, it turns out that if you find yourself getting stuck in one of these dead-end conversations, you can sometimes turn things around. This is especially helpful if the conversation is one that you don’t feel that you can just walk away from. A great example of this would be if you found yourself stuck in a conversation with someone who was a chronic complainer. When this happens, you can ask them to suggest a solution to the problem that they are complaining about. Ask them what changes they would make to improve things.

When we find ourselves trapped in a dead-end conversation, we can take a different tactic to try to turn things around. You can try to narrow what is being talked about in an attempt to get the other person to focus on specific things. If somebody is complaining about the level of service that they have received, ask them what types of services they miss getting the most. This can open the door to having you learn something about the person that you are talking with regarding either their work or their life. When you run into someone who is a non-stop complainer, engagement may not work for you. When you encounter this type of person ask them what is going well for them right now instead of all the bad things that they are encountering.

How To Handle Dead-End Conversations

One of your most powerful tools that you have when you are dealing with someone who has created a deal-end conversation is yourself. This can be important if you run into someone who is full of themselves. If you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is boasting about their accomplishments or telling you about all of the things that they have been able to achieve, you are going to want to find a way to jar them out of this conversation. One way to go about doing this is to start out by complementing this person on all that they’ve been able to do. Next, you’ll want to provide them with some information about you. What you’ll be trying to do here is to satisfy this person’s need for attention and allow them to move on to something else.

One of the most common things that can lead to a dead-end conversation is a divisive issue. The person that you are talking with may feel one way and you may feel a completely different way. If you find this happening to you, one approach you can take in order to end the conversation is to simply put up one of your hands and tell the other person that this is not a conversation that you want to have right now. Conversational disputes can cause the people who are involved in the conversation to start to feel anxiety and fear. When this happens, their ability to actually listen or hear what the other person is saying decreases. When you find yourself in a dead-end conversation that has high emotions, the best thing that you can do is to interrupt the other person’s pattern and allow them to calm down.

Getting out of a dead-end conversation is what we’d all like to be able to do gracefully. The good news is that one of the most enjoyable ways to accomplish this is to search for ways to find humor in what is being discussed. When you have a chance, what you are going to want to do is to search for common ground with the person that you are talking with. You may both be coming from very different places, but that does not mean that you cannot be warm and empathetic to each other and share some laughs and do some team building. Keep in mind, with every conversation it’s always possible that everyone wins.

What All Of This Means For You

The way that managers accomplish things is by having conversations with people. The challenge that we can run into is that sometimes the conversations that we get involved in are dead-end conversations. When this happens, we need to have a good plan for what we are going to need to do to get out of them.

A dead-end conversation occurs when you are talking with someone that you can’t just walk away from; however, they are arguing, complaining, or just the going on and on about something that you don’t care about. If you get stuck in a dead-end conversation with a chronic complainer you can ask them to suggest a solution to the problem that they are complaining about. An alternative is to try to narrow what is being talked about in an attempt to get the other person to focus on specific things. If you get trapped in a conversation with someone who is boasting about themselves, you can complement them and then provide them with some information about you. If someone is talking about a divisive issue then you can just tell them that you don’t want to talk about it right now. One of the most powerful tools that we have to wrap up a dead-end conversation is humor.

Managers will never be able to get away from the need to have conversations with people. However, we need to understand that sometimes these conversations may turn into dead-end conversations. When this happens, we are going to have to have a set of skills that we can use to extract ourselves from the conversation without having to just walk away. Getting good at doing this will allow us to wrap up our dead-end conversations and get on with the conversations that really matter.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you could end a dead-end conversation by telling the other person that you had to talk with someone else?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

No job that any of us have will probably last us for our entire career. What that means is that we’re all going to be packing up our manager skills and switching jobs at some point in time. This is where things can get a bit tricky because none of us have had any manager training in how to do this correctly. Yes, we may be willing to jump to a new company to take on that shiny new job. However, we need to realize that there are a whole bunch of ways that that a job switch could go wrong. What’s the best way to change jobs?

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