WHEN TO DEFUSE A C-BOMB
How to save yourself from a conversation bomb going off
You’re at a party, a wedding, or meeting your boyfriend’s parents. Everything’s going well. You’re witty, calm, owning it. Then someone drops a conversation bomb that’s racist, homophobic or just irritating, and you don’t know what to say. Anna Musson, an etiquette expert, and Barbara Warren, a media and presentation skills consultant, reveal how to respond:
Someone is inflammatory about politics or religion.
EXAMPLE: “All I’m saying is, you only ever hear about Muslim suicide bombers. So...”
Warren Says: “If you don’t agree, stay true to that. You don’t need to inflame the discussion, though. Say, ‘You and I probably won’t reach a consensus, so let’s talk about something else.’ Don’t get drawn in to a discussion that makes you uncomfortable.”
Musson Says: “Remove yourself from this conversation ASAP—it’s easy to offend people and they’ll remember you and your views.”
When you really put your foot in it... Example: Forgetting your guy friend’s new girlfriend’s name and calling her by his ex’s name.
Warren Says: “Own up, explain the mistake and, if you feel you need to, apologise.”
Musson Says: “Damage control could include statements like, ‘I was thinking about Katrina Kaif (or some other stunning woman’s name) and got muddled.’ That way, they’re compared with someone beautiful, rather than the ex. It’s not about lying—it’s about preserving her dignity.”
When someone gives you waaay too much information.
Example: “What’s up with farting whenever you cough? Oh really, is that just me?”
Warren Says: “If you don’t want to discuss things like this, stay silent. It makes people uncomfortable, and puts the onus on them to continue the conversation—hopefully in a different way!”
Musson Says: “A lady doesn’t discuss such issues. It’s not that we pretend we don’t break wind, but we’re mysterious creatures. Good response is ‘What a funny topic’. It’ll leave them wondering.”
Someone is being so self-deprecating that you’re worried about their mental well-being. Example: “Everyone’s getting married and I’m all alone.”
Warren Says: “If you know the person, reassure them by saying, ‘I’m here for you’. Talk a little, and then steer the conversation to something more positive. If you don’t know them, feel free to excuse yourself.”
Musson Says: “If they’re a friend, be open, and ask, ‘Why do you feel that way?’ Encourage them in their situation and don’t agree with negative self-talk.”
‘Look, for the last time, this is not pest