Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


Conversation Conundrum: Eliminating the Never-Ending Discussion

When I teach my conflict class, I am frequently asked: “When you have a difference of opinion with someone, how do you stop the endless, exasperating, back-and-forth exchange of positions?”

This situation often occurs when one person is trying to persuade the other of his or her viewpoint.

There isn’t one perfect way to get out of this type of conversation, but outlined below are a number of options to try. Some of them contain comments that you can adapt to your situation. I have collected these examples over the last couple of years, by listening to public figures and from conversations with participants in my seminars.

1. Broaden the scope of the discussion. Today Show anchor Matt Lauer did this successfully a few years ago during an interview with actor Tom Cruise when he said: "Let me take this [psychiatry discussion] more general, because I think you and I can go around in circles on this for a while. And I respect your opinion." Lauer then asked Cruise a wide-ranging question.

2. State that you won’t participate in the disagreement. Politely and powerfully let the other person know that you won’t engage in the discussion. A couple of months ago, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter replied to a reporter’s question: "I'm not getting into a back-and-forth. The answer is the answer."

3. Use the broken-record approach. With this technique, you state your position over and over, until the other person truly hears you. A seminar participant told me she did this with her co-worker when she kept repeating, “I’m swamped. I’m unable to help you with this project.” He finally said, “Oh, okay, I’ll get someone else.”

4. Take a break. You let the person know that you need time to think more about the topic and will get back to him or her later.

When you use any of these options, make sure that your voice is calm and steady. You want to appear assertive, not aggressive.

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Pachter & Associates offers numerous ways to learn more about conflict. Seminars and keynotes presented by Barbara Pachter are available, and her book The Power of Positive Confrontation provides suggestions on how to confront others politely and powerfully.

For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or


  1. Anonymous7/09/2012

    From A Reader:
    Barbara, great topic and article -- and so relevant. Thank you!

  2. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From A Reader:
    Usually, by simply saying, "Let's agree to disagree" it ends the conversation. If the person continues, then say it again, "Okay, we don't agree, but let's agree that it's alright to disagree." If they don't get it the second time, then walk away because they aren't listening to what you're saying. Sometimes it's an ego thing where the person has to have the last word. So walk away. Of course on the phone, one can always say, I have to take another call.

    1. I agree the statement, "Let's agree to disagree" can sometimes work. I would be careful with just walking away without an exit line. This can appear aggressive.

  3. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From A Reader:
    Dear Barbara: Here in Canada I have learned a very good phrase:" Let's agree to disagree."

  4. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From A Reader:
    wow.its empowering!

  5. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From A Reader:
    I really enjoyed this article, Barbara. Thanks for sharing it.

  6. Anonymous7/10/2012

    From a Reader:

    It's fine to have a difference of opinion with someone. The difficulty lies in how that is expressed. If both sides allow the other to make their point, without constantly interrupting and listen with respect - surely this is a useful exercise?

    I think the problems really occur, when one party dominates a conversation and doesn't allow the other get a word in edge ways.

  7. Anonymous7/23/2012

    From A Reader:
    I often say "that is fascinating. I never looked at it that way before."

    This avoids making the other person wrong and allows them to save face.


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