Sometimes people get carried away in conversation. Meaning, you might have asked someone a simple question hoping to get a simple answer, and suddenly you’re on a completely unrelated topic.
How did the conversation even get there?
That’s less important than what you can do to get the conversation back on track.
The strategies I’m sharing in this lesson will be just as useful in casual conversation as they will in a business meeting.
Alright, let’s get right to it.
Validate and remind them of the topic or question
There are two parts to this first strategy. First you validate their recent point. Then you remind them of the original topic of discussion or if you asked them a question, you can ask them the question again.
For example, if you asked Fred if he would like to get dinner later but he’s talking about how much fun he had on his recent kayaking trip then you could say.
Wow, Fred, I didn’t know you were an avid kayaker? That’s really cool. We got a bit off track, but are you around for dinner this evening?
So you validated his love for kayaking but then gently reminded him that you had asked about dinner plans.
Now let’s look at an example that does not involve a question.
You’re in a meeting and the topic of discussion is the new product roll out. Suddenly, the participants start talking about the new remote work policies and the conversation gets way off track.
So let’s see how we can validate and then remind them of the original talking point.
You can say something like:
Your concerns about the new remote work policies are valid and we should definitely revisit this topic at our next all-staff meeting. However, the reason this meeting was called was to discuss the new product launch. So if we can get back on topic, that’d be great.
So that’s the first strategy. Let’s have a look at the next one.
Transition Relevance Place
The transition relevance place or TRP is a moment in the conversation where someone else could interrupt or jump into the conversation.
This could be a pause. It could be a moment of silence. It could be the end of a sentence. And it could be where there’s a falling intonation.
As you may notice, being on the lookout for a TRP requires active listening and participation.
You need to be attuned to the tonality, pacing, and logical direction of the conversation.
When you find a moment to jump into the conversation what can you say?
Let’s look at a few phrases you can use to make your point and add to the conversation.
“Absolutely, and guess what else…”
“A quick point on that note...”
“Before you go on I’d like to say/add….”
These can also be used to interrupt someone who might be hogging the conversation and is talking way too much.
Both of these strategies require active listening. It’s very important to be engaged in the conversation.
If you’re using the first strategy, you need to validate first before helping to get the conversation back on track. The only way you can validate what they are saying is if you’ve been listening to what they are saying.
And then you can steer the conversation back in the direction it was going, either through asking the question again, or reminding the person of the topic.
In the second strategy, you also need to be an engaged listener because you have to listen for the right opportunity in the conversation. This way you interrupt the conversation without interrupting the person. So you’re not overlapping with their speech, but you are interrupting the train of thought. This could be for several reasons: the person is speaking too much and not letting anyone else talk, the conversation is way off topic, or it could be that you would like to add to the conversation and get a chance to speak.
Whatever the reason, both strategies will help you achieve this outcome.
Sometimes we have to fight for floor space. Meaning, we have to be alert and then ready to jump into the conversation at any given moment.
These strategies will help you become more attuned to the patterns of conversation and if things get off topic you’ll know how to bring it back.
Practice these strategies the next time you find yourself in a conversation. The more practice you get the more second nature these strategies will become.
Alright, that’s it from me today. I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Let me know about a time you wanted to interrupt but didn’t know how. Also share which strategy you like the best. I’ll see you in the next Advanced English lesson where we’ll continue advancing your English!
Until then, keep up the awesome work. Bye for now!
If you would like more lessons on Interrupting check out these Explearning videos: