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  • Writer's pictureKellie Portman

5 Steps to Redirecting Confrontational Conversations

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

When you find your conversations headed in the wrong direction, make a U-turn!


How many times have you found yourself talking with someone and before you knew it, the conversation became confrontational? What would life be like if individuals could turn confrontational conversations around just as quickly as you turn around your car? Well, you can! Just simply make a U-turn and move the conversation in the opposite direction.

If you are reading this right now and thinking “yeah right, driving my car has nothing to do with confrontational conversations!” then you are not the only skeptical person. Spend a few minutes reading the five steps below and by the end, I am sure you will agree that the skills you use to make a U-turn in your car when you are headed in the wrong direction are the same skills you can use when you find yourself in a conversation that is headed in the wrong direction!

To really apply this theory, I want you to think about the last time you were driving to a destination, realized you were headed in the wrong direction, and made a U-turn and went back in the opposite direction. More than likely, you were successful in making the U-turn without giving much thought to the skills and steps involved that made that happen. If you were to consciously think about it, I believe that the steps below in turning conversations around are the same steps that you take when turning your car around. To take it a step further, you could then allow these same steps to apply to those times you find yourself in a conversation that is moving in the wrong direction. The goal is to reach your destination “all in one piece” and the steps below will help you accomplish that no matter if you find yourself driving a car or driving a conversation!

1. Be alert and know what to look for. The moment things seem unfamiliar, or you feel out of place, slow down and silence the noise (stop talking, turn down music, etc).
  • When conversations become confrontational, often individuals tend to talk louder and faster.

  • To turn the conversation around, make sure to lower your voice, talk slower and/or be silent.

2. Be aware of the type of road you are driving on. While slowing down, make sure that you are not on a one-way street and will be able to quickly turn around.
  • When conversations become confrontational, often one individual dominates the entire conversation.

  • To turn the conversation around, make sure there is a shared dialogue in which you are not the only one talking.

3. Be considerate of other drivers on the road. You are not the only person with a destination,
making a U-turn means that you must watch both oncoming traffic as well as drivers beside and behind you.
  • When conversations become confrontational, often individuals give little thought to who is around, or how their behavior impacts others.

  • To turn the conversation around, make sure to pay attention and be considerate of others around you. Move the conversation to a private location if possible.

4. Give yourself time and space. Making a U-turn requires enough space and time to safely turn the vehicle around without hitting anything, causing damage to you and your vehicle as well as others around you.
  • When a conversation becomes confrontational, often individuals lack appropriate personal boundaries as well as adequate time to process what is being discussed.

  • To turn the conversation around, step back and allow individuals to have personal space and enough time (set a timer if you can) to actively listen to what is being said to respond in a manner that lets others feel heard.

5. After you safely make a U-turn, keep your foot on the gas.
  • When a conversation becomes confrontational, often individuals stop talking and moving towards a resolution.

  • To turn the conversation around, keep moving in the right direction until you reach your destination.


Now that your read the five steps, can you see the similarities between driving a car and driving a conversation? Driving them is one thing, arriving at your desired destination is something else. Don’t worry, if you find yourself moving in the wrong direction, just make a U-turn!


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