7 Magic Words: The Foolproof Way to Halt a Dead-End Conversation


I was at the airport this week and overheard two people bickering over Josh Duggar, the Ashley Madison website scandal, and the Duggar family in general. The female was crucifying the Duggar family for its hypocrisy in projecting themselves as Christians in the media, while raising “a pond scum, perverted, cheater.” The male defended the Duggars, arguing that no family is perfect and that one “loser” out of 19 still makes them good parents. The discussion escalated into a yelling match at Gate D7.

There’s been a lot of recent media stories that make for interesting discussions around the dinner table. Caitlyn Jenner. Donald Trump. Sandra Bland. Tim Tebow.

Everybody has an opinion. Some people have strong opinions. Some people are apathetic. Some people won’t have an opinion without first independently researching the issue. Some people adopt a “popular” or “politically correct” opinion without questioning how the media is crafting an issue, or because they are too scared to publicly say their real opinions.

You know what? Absent someone asking you what your opinion is, nobody really cares. And 99.9% of the time, you will not influence anybody by being assertive about yours. So stop it already.

It took me twenty years to realize that in some most scenarios, it’s best to keep my mouth closed, no matter how difficult. While it’s important for us to speak our truths, some conversations merit zipping it. Most importantly, I’ve learned that just because someone starts a dead-end conversation doesn’t mean I have to participate.

There’s a lot of special people in my life. I have friends who are white, black, asian, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, agnostic, American, Russian, Cuban, gay, straight, transgender, poor, wealthy, parents, childless, breastfeeder, non-breastfeeder, working moms, stay at home moms, work at home moms, married, divorced, illiterate, educated, depressed, and mentally stable (if there is such a thing).

Having a diverse social circle creates the potential probability of disagreements regarding religion, politics, and controversial social issues.

Life would be boring if everyone held the same beliefs. Our opinions are shaped by our personal experiences and observations. There’s very few instances where a philosophy is concretely wrong or right.

And let’s be face it, I don’t want all my friends and acquaintances to be exactly like me.

In the past, I’ve foolishly engaged in “dead-end” conversations with friends and colleagues about touchy subjects.

Dumb, dumb, dumb.

As a wise man (Kenny Rogers) once said:

You gotta know when to hold ’em.
Know when to fold ’em.
Know when to walk away.
And know when to run.

When a conversation is going somewhere that could result in hurt feelings, animosity, or resentment, it’s time to fold it. If you can’t fold it, then change the subject and gracefully walk away.

A conversation is usually making a turn for the worst when of the participants becomes visibly angry. People can become so fixated on being “right” that they aren’t considering the importance of being kind. If a person is “right,” but they project themselves in a way that makes them look like a jerk to everyone else, then how is being “right” going for them?

Shut that bad boy down.

The best way to shut it down is with the Seven Magic Words:

You don’t have to agree with me. 

The key is that if you use this phrase while projecting sincere kindness, there is no logical way for the other person to respond to keep the conversation moving in a bad direction. How do you argue with someone who acknowledges you don’t need to agree with them?

You can’t.

Cheers to agreeing to disagree, having an opinion, and accepting and loving those who don’t think the same way you do.



    17 Comments on 7 Magic Words: The Foolproof Way to Halt a Dead-End Conversation

    1. Melissa
      January 24, 2016 at 10:04 pm (7 years ago)

      Love your use of Kenny Rogers- perfectly stated. I tend to hold my tongue a lot even though I am a very talkative person because no one needs to be talked into my opinions and neither me for theirs.

    2. Daniela
      January 23, 2016 at 10:27 am (7 years ago)

      GREAT TIP! Also, you are a really talented and engaging writer. I tend to gravitate towards posts with lots of pictures and bullet points (ADD??) but the topic of your post caught my eye and I couldn’t help but read every single word. You know how to keep an audience engaged through authentic writing! I’m so glad I found your blog!

    3. michelle
      January 23, 2016 at 12:37 am (7 years ago)

      i think that stopping a bad conversation requires respect and tact which unfortunately some people lack that. i agree though that absent someone asking no one cares

    4. Missy - Getting Fit to Find Myself
      January 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm (7 years ago)

      Love it! I have started removing myself from these types of conversations. I think more people need to learn how to end these conversations

    5. Heather with WELLFITandFED
      January 22, 2016 at 4:03 pm (7 years ago)

      Love it. I had just posted a meme on FB that says “it is okay to not react to everything” The monks have something. Silence is the better choice MOST of the time. Thanks for the post.

    6. lauren
      January 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm (7 years ago)

      Great tip! I tend to stay away from controversial topics all together unless it is with people I am close to. ha!

    7. linda spiker
      January 22, 2016 at 12:42 pm (7 years ago)

      Good advice! Words of wisdom.

    8. Krista Williams
      January 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm (7 years ago)

      Such a great post – I wish everyone could read it! LOL Thanks for sharing, love!

    9. Sara Glomski
      September 24, 2015 at 8:53 pm (7 years ago)

      Great advice. almost 2 years ago, my girlfriends and I went to get sushi and public vs private school subject came up. We all have different plans, ideas, views, financial situations. It was very uncomfortable!

    10. Lora
      September 22, 2015 at 9:40 am (7 years ago)

      I love this! It can be very hard for us to realize that everyone has a belief system of their own and it is not for us to judge or to say otherwise. We must remember that we have our own spiritual understanding and world understanding and they have theirs. It can be hard to be silent (especially for me), but we must always be respectful–even when we disagree. Beautiful post!

    11. Sarah Eliza @ devastateboredom
      August 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm (7 years ago)

      Found you via Tuesday Talk! Such a good perspective… I’m right there with you, I generally don’t verbalize my opinion unless I know it can go somewhere productive. Love the 7 magic words!

      • jenniferdaku
        August 26, 2015 at 9:05 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks, Sarah Eliza! Let me know how the 7 Magic Words Goes! Can’t wait to check out your blog. xo

    12. Sarena @ Teal Inspiration
      August 22, 2015 at 9:09 pm (7 years ago)

      Thank you so much for this post. Sometimes it’s so much better to just walk away. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut (probably a little too well) around people that I simply cannot see eye to eye with. But the “You don’t have to agree with me” phrase would absolutely be a lifesaver.

      • jenniferdaku
        August 23, 2015 at 9:19 pm (7 years ago)

        Thanks, Sarena- it’s tried and true. Hope you had a great weekend!!!

    13. Michelle
      August 21, 2015 at 4:27 pm (7 years ago)

      Unfortunately, I try to avoid even wll meaning Christians on certain subjects. Some have created a bad name for other believers with strong convictions. I wholeheartedly agree Jennifer with the way you described how to “walk away.” Sometimes, it is all that is needed.

      • jenniferdaku
        August 22, 2015 at 5:31 pm (7 years ago)

        I agree “Christians” can be judgy and polarizing. Thanks for stopping by Michelle and for your always thoughtful feedback.

    14. Kristin
      August 21, 2015 at 2:25 pm (7 years ago)

      Amen, sister. Cheers!