(Part Three of "Things I Learned In College.")
Okay, so the title of this post sounds way more violent than it actually is. Some of you are probably thinking, “Um…how does Amy’s mind even work?” And the answer to that is…it’s complicated. But I’ll try to explain this one.
“Conversational terrorism” is my name for what happens when, for some reason, you need to hijack the conversation. People are talking about something that you’d rather not talk about, and you need to act quickly to redirect the course of the conversation. Except in this case, it’s a positive thing, unlike terrorism. So maybe it’s a bad analogy.
Anyway, here are five of my best tips for hijacking a conversation, particularly if your friends start to badmouth another person.
One: “Well, I’ve learned that for everything I find annoying about someone else, there’s probably something about me that gets on their nerves.” Or a similar speck-log-we’re-all-humans-and-have-annoying-things-about-us type of statement. Sometimes it’s helpful to remember that I wouldn’t want people talking about all of my flaws and faults when I’m not around. And they totally could, because I have a lot of flaws and faults.
Two: “I can’t judge. I wouldn’t want their job. Can you imagine how stressful it would be to….” Or a similar put-yourself-in-his-shoes statement. Because sometimes we judge people by the fragment of their lives that we’re experiencing right now. This is somewhat similar to opening a book to a random page in the middle and seeing the main character say something mean and condemn him without looking for context of any kind.
Three: “Hey now. That’s a little harsh, don’t you think?” Or a similar point-out-that-you’re-kind-of-being-a-jerk statement. This is more direct and has the potential to make the other person defensive. A likely response is, “I’m just saying it like it is.” At which point you can try 1 or 2, or say something positive about the person being gossiped about or just shrug and move on with a different conversation.
Four: “Okay, this isn’t fair. He’s not even around to defend himself.” Can be said in a joking-not-joking kind of way, or just straight up serious. People usually get the point without feeling backed into a corner. Everyone secretly hopes no one is talking badly about them behind their back. It’s a simple Golden Rule thing.
Five: “Hey, did you know that giant squid’s eyes can be as large as a beach ball?” This is not just a random subject changed. After I saw this comic strip, I looked up some facts about giant squid to use to abruptly (and slightly passive-aggressively) change the subject away from gossip. It’s actually pretty fun to do.