AEE 1132: How to Connect When You Get Pigeonholed in English

Do you ever have assumptions made about you in conversations in English?

Do you feel unsure of what to say when somebody makes that assumption?

Does it feel uncomfortable knowing how to move forward without hurting the other person’s feelings?

We’re going to talk about assumptions made in conversation, and how you can work through them the right way and still maintain the connection in English.

Today we have a student’s question about this topic.

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Hey Lindsay, how is it going?

First of all, I want to say thank you for all of the episodes from All Ears English. Every episode is part of my routine–I listen to your podcast from my home to my Lab everyday. I began to listen when I was trying to get a job overseas, and I got it. Next week I am moving from Brazil to Sweden.

My question today is related to conversation subjects with someone new. Sometimes people start talking about a subject I don’t like or I don’t know anything about. They may wrongfully assume that I know a lot about the topic.

One example is when people figure out I am Brazilian and they think I know a lot about soccer. The truth is that I hate soccer!

What is the best way to continue the conversation and not be impolite?

Thank you for your help!

Roger from Brazil

Assumptions Are Natural But Often Not Good

First of all, this is about people making assumptions.

This can be about stereotyping or maybe something innocent enough that people don’t intend in a bad way.

In the example, the person thought that he might be interested in something and they were mistaken.

These assumptions are often natural and not intended to be harmful.

However these same assumptions can cause a conversation to become somewhat uncomfortable.

Knowing how to address this situation when it comes up is pivotal to making connections.

How You Handle This Situation Matters

So what can you say if someone starts a conversation with you about a topic you aren’t actually interested in?

How can you tell them this and change the subject without breaking the connection?

It’s all about having the right thing to say, but also about saying it in the right way as well.

Strategy 1: Be honest: Knowing what to say in your honest response is key. You want to let them know that you’re not interested, but you also don’t want to hurt any feelings.

So the tone of your voice, the words that you carefully choose, and the way in which you present this all matters greatly. Some good ideas of what to say may include:

  • Actually I’m really not into that.
  • You know, that’s not really my area of expertise.
  • I don’t know much about that.
  • Yes I know a lot of people are into that, but I’m not.

Try to show an interest in what they are saying, but then move onto another topic of conversation

Strategy 2: Change the subject: You might think that this comes off as rude, but it’s all in the way that you present it.

 You want to let them know that you are not interested in this topic, but in more of an indirect way.

You are trying to politely divert the attention to something else rather than focusing on this topic that you’re not interested in. If you say it the right way, you can keep the conversation going without coming off as rude.

Some ideas include:

  • I’m not sure about that, but I have been thinking about this a lot lately
  • Oh that’s great, but have you heard about…..?
  • That’s interesting and it reminds me of…..
  • I’ve been really into X lately, have you heard much about that?
  • Oh that’s great, have you heard much about X in the news lately?

These are the most common tactics and they work, but there can be more to it beyond just this too.

Other Simple But Effective Ways To Move Forward

If you feel like you can’t address it or change the subject, not all hope is lost.

You just want to approach it with a smile on your face and try another idea.

You might consider one of these methods that can help to get the conversation headed in the right direction.

  • Make a joke: When all else fails, put a smile on your face and make a joke. You can even use this to ridicule yourself in the right way too. You might say something in the example like “I know soccer is so huge in Brazil–I can’t believe I don’t like it!”
  • Show a little interest: You don’t want to spend the entire time talking about this subject, but showing a little interest can go a long way. Just touch on it, let the person talk about it, and then slowly move onto something else.
  • Talk about current events or your surroundings: When there is a break in conversation, take that as an opportunity to make an observation. It could be from your current environment or on a topic that touches everyone. Seeing that you are shifting the conversation might help to give them a hint.

It’s all about knowing how to address the issue without being too abrupt or making them think that you aren’t interested in chatting.

These phrases help you to transition the conversation and keep the connection alive–that’s a win win!

Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to say you aren’t interested in something that comes up in conversation, but be sure that you use the right way to address this.

You should have an open mind and from time to time ask about the topic if the other person sounds excited to talk about it.

Though it may not be your favorite thing to talk about, you do want to be mindful that others may feel passionate about it.

That doesn’t mean that you only have to talk about that topic–just revisit it once in awhile and see how that goes for you.

You never know where the conversation will lead!

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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