Changing the topic requires tact to preserve the relationship.

How to Change the Topic Without Being Rude

by Eliza Martinez

Everyone has suffered through an uncomfortable conversation. Whether the topic turns to religion, sex, how much money you make or your relationship status, if you don't want to talk about it, changing the subject can steer the conversation back to a topic you are happy to engage in. Shifting the focus of a conversation without offending others prevents you from looking rude and keeps you from being uncomfortable.

1. Timing

It's rude to interrupt someone who's talking. Even if you don't like the topic, it's polite to wait for a break in the conversation before you try to change the subject. Listen actively as others talk, suggests Humboldt State University. Once the conversation wanes and the topic starts to wind down, you can bring up a new topic. Wait until no one is talking before you start talking, so you don't appear rude.

2. Body Language

Standing in a group of people with an upset frown or crossed arms is rude. If you want to change the topic, appearing friendly and open to the conversation is usually better received than obvious indications that the current topic isn't something you want to discuss. Lean slightly forward and use hand gestures to indicate that you want to participate in the conversation, even if you're bringing up a new topic.

3. What to Say

Talk about something neutral, so that your fellow conversationalists will have an opinion or thought on the subject. For example, mention a movie you recently saw or a book you just finished reading. Chances are, at least one other person will know what you're talking about and you can use this to progress to a new topic. Asking questions is another way to steer the course of a conversation. Ask if anyone has news on the score of the big game, if they've tried a new restaurant in town or what they think about a car you're considering buying. Keep your tone friendly and warm so people are willing to shift the conversation with you.

4. Considerations

Sometimes, your attempts to change the subject won't be well received, even if you're not rude when you try to do so. It's appropriate for you to let people know you're uncomfortable with the current topic and walk away. Don't sigh loudly and exit, however, which is rude. Simply say you don't want to discuss politics, reveal intimate relationship details or argue about controversial subjects and leave the conversation.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images