Chatting with clients and coworkers is great. Most of the time, it’s fun and interesting. You get to hear about the wacky things that people did over the weekend. You can learn about cool new movies that are currently streaming on Netflix. And, most importantly, you can strengthen your bond with them, and create a more friendly and cohesive work environment.

But have you ever gotten stuck in an uncomfortable conversation and you can’t figure out how to make it stop? Maybe you have a coworker who is always complaining about things at length. Or maybe your coworker won’t stop bragging about his or her awesome accomplishments. It’s awkward and painful, and you just want it to end. But you can’t figure out how to extricate yourself from the conversation without offending the other person – so it goes on and on.

Well suffer no more! According to author Sue Shellenbarger, you can end your pain by redirecting your coworker and transforming the uncomfortable conversation into something positive. She offers the following suggestions:

If your coworker won’t stop complaining…

  • Try to get your coworker to stop talking about the problem and start thinking about possible solutions. Ask your coworker, “What do you think would make this situation better?”
  • If that doesn’t work, try to steer the conversation in a more positive direction by asking your coworker questions about things that are going well in his or her life right now.

If your coworker won’t stop bragging…

  • Compliment your coworker on his or her accomplishments.
  • Then try to change the subject – possibly by sharing some information about yourself and what’s going on in your life.

If your coworker is being argumentative…

  • Remain calm and ask thoughtful questions.
  • Try to diffuse the tension by finding humor in the fact that your opinions are so different.
  • Try to find common ground.
  • If things get too heated, end the conversation and walk away until you’ve both had time to cool down and regain perspective.


Shellenbarger. S. (2018, May 28). How to save that conversation you can’t escape. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from: