Some of the most important life events play out through our critical conversations. That’s how we get married (or divorced), get the job or get the green light for an innovative project.
Here’s what to do when someone wants a critical conversation with you….at just the wrong moment! That’s a special kind of interruption or ambush!
The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work. W. Edwards Deming
Most interruptions are annoying; the exception is when your boss bursts in to tell you about your fat new raise / promotion!
Interruptions contribute to errors, quality problems and re-work. On top of that is the inconvenient truth that you now have less time to do everything you’ve been trying to get done.
Interruptions form part of reality but you can delay certain conversations when it’s not a convenient time for you to discuss The Issue.
The worst kind of interruption is an ambush. That’s an interruption to discuss something critical (as compared to an interruption to shoot the breeze or vent frustration) and it’s just not a good moment for you. You may have your mind in a totally different place and need to recalibrate or you haven’t been able to locate the needed data.
If you’re asked “Is this a good time?” and you don’t know for what, better to say that you’re busy. Then as you find out more, maybe you can quickly resolve the issue or delay the discussion.
Any time someone wants to discuss a sticky topic and you’re not prepared, the way through it is to delay. Even taking a 5-minute break in the rest room allows you to compose your thoughts, breathe in deeply and go out calmly.
At the Office: Delay the Conversation
I know this conversation is really important, is there any way we can talk about it at __(specify day and time)__?
If that doesn’t work, try this one:
I know this is really important but I was just going to the restroom, can you wait 5 minutes?
You can have several reasons for wanting to exit the conversation, the most common are a) you’re not prepared because of 432 other things you’re doing; b) you’re really busy with something else or c) you’re exhausted.
Now that you know how to delay an untimely conversation, here are 3 conversation exit strategies.
These tactics are great for networking events.
Exit Tactic #1: Introduce the person to someone else.
Exit Tactic #2: “Please excuse me, I need to make a quick restroom trip. It was lovely to meet you!”
[And…the first sentence of tactic #2 works well in the office.]
Exit Tactic #3: “I’ve had such a time talking to you and I know you want to talk to other people here as well. Do you have a business card?”
This one is great for the office.
“I absolutely must get out this email before [time], so I need to get cracking on it.”
Just because it’s a good time for the other person to discuss The Issue, does’t mean you have to drop everything every time to do so. Likewise, not all conversations are interesting and you have the right to exit out to something more relevant.
If you’re put on the spot to give a presentation on something, THIS is my recommendation for those brain freeze moments.