The Art of Conversation – Depersonalizing a Sensitive Topic
In this session of the Art of Conversation, we shared about and practiced depersonalizing a sensitive topic.
Many a times we step on inevitable landmines of sensitive topics. It is hard to foresee exactly when that happens especially if we do not know the other person’s buttons well. Pressing the wrong buttons could be destructive for relationships that we value and to remedy such damages could be a tough, and sometimes impossible endeavor.
Depersonalizing is a good technique to use at avoiding such landmines. At the end of the day, the reason why a topic is sensitive is because it touches a soft spot that is personal and emotional. Withdrawing from the personal context is therefore key to keep a conversation at an intellectual level.
To depersonalize is like taking a step back. For example, when asked about your view on a sensitive topic and your view might be somewhat controversial and offensive, take a step back and do not charge immediately into the fray with what you think. Share what you have heard from others that might support your view first, qualify that whatever opinion you have is based on your limited knowledge and experience, and conclude by repeating that it is a qualified opinion and you are open to more informed views and possibilities. You could also take the topic out of the personalized context. For example, if asked by someone whether you think he or she should change something about him or herself, e.g. be more open-minded, take the topic of open-mindedness out of the personalized context. Discuss what open-minded means generally. Consider if being open-minded is generally good or bad. Ask why would people want to be open-minded.
The technique of depersonalizing could be extremely useful in facilitating discussion about an interesting topic without becoming personal. So do have fun practicing it now!