How to Deal With Deflection- Tips for Better Communication

I am always amused when people try to change the subject when they disagree with you. Sometimes people have ADD tendencies when it comes to a disagreement. They try to divert or deflect your attention and take you off topic as a way to try to persuade you.

Sometimes this diversion is unintentional. People who have not really analyzed their own ideas can’t always reason effectively. If you do not fully understand why you believe something, you are not going to be able to use logic and reason to defend your ideas, and you will be easily led down rabbit-holes.

This is one reason it is so important to use the Journaling for Entrepreneurs process to understand your beliefs, motives, and ideas. At some point you will come across someone that wants to challenge you, and having a clear understanding of your beliefs will help you make it through these challenges.

Sometimes the diversion is intentional though. If someone cannot convince you with reason, anger can lead them to use logical fallacies. They will try to find another means of attack to prove you’re wrong, even if what they are using to attack you has nothing to do with the main point.

While you will never be able to get someone in this mindset to understand you, using the journaling for entrepreneurs process will keep you from falling victim to these tactics in your own mind. Fully understanding your reasons will keep you from being tossed about.

What is Deflection?

Deflection, also known as a red herring fallacy is the misleading of a conversation. People who don’t have an argument for the topic will often introduce new ideas in order to strengthen their stance.

This fallacy is often introduced so subtly, if you’re not careful, you won’t catch it until it’s too late. It can be as simple as a small deviation, leading to further distance from the original topic. Deflection can also be a complete change of subject, though possibly along the same vein. Either way, the red herring fallacy can be a tricky one to deal with.

To give you a better illustration of the red herring fallacy, I have two deflection examples I would like to share. While these are not necessarily business related, they still give a good idea of how this deflection tactic works.

Example One

Several years ago, I was sitting around chatting with some friends, when some of the group landed on the topic of true love. One girl in my group of friends liked one of our guy friends, and was trying to convince him that everyone has one true love.

I guess she figured if she could convince him of this then she would have an easier time convincing him that they were each others true love? As they debated this, and drew everyone else into the conversation, her best friend turned to me for my opinion.

She was trying to help her friend in her endeavor and evidently expected me to comply with the one true love theory. I messed up the plan though because I stated my belief that people can love more than once in a lifetime.

This could have been a pleasant discussion about our differing beliefs, but instead became a break in friendship.

I allowed this to happen because I allowed her to change the subject. Somehow she changed the subject from true love over to Brittney Spear’s responsibility to her fans (I’m still not sure how that one happened).

We disagreed here because I felt parents were more responsible than Ms. Spears. My second disagreement angered this one girl so much, that rather than continuing the discussion she began a personal attack on me.

Somewhere in the midst of all this we had gone from true love to me supposedly having been taken care of all my life and not having to worry about taking care of myself.

Unfortunately, I took the bait once again. She had a more stable childhood than I ever had, so rather than either dropping the subject or bringing us back on topic, I followed her tangent and explained this fact.

I reminded her of things she already knew. That my childhood had been a mixed bag. That I had dealt with a lot of things she had never been called on to worry about. I let my anger at her trying to belittle my experiences lead me further down the diversionary track.

My explanation resulted in her flinging the insult that I was a waste of breath and life because I wouldn’t use my experiences to come to the same conclusions as her, and thus ended the friendship.

I now know my mistake was letting her divert my attention to something else, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been friends anyway so I can’t be too upset about the break. Knowing the art of diversion better now, I have learned to not let it work on me anymore (usually).

The thing is, I understood my reasons and beliefs, but I hadn’t practiced spelling these ideas out, so I wasn’t prepared to stop the subject change. I let myself drift through the conversation.

While it’s one thing to let this happen in a casual conversation (although we should practice our reasoning skills in all situations), we cannot let this happen in more professional settings.

aerial photo of buildings and roads
Photo by Aleksejs Bergmanis on

This leads to a slightly more recent run in with differing opinions.

Example Two

There was a debate going on in our community a few years back regarding noise ordinances. A business opened up in our downtown area, which is a mixed zone area, and has been disturbing their neighbors with loud music late at night.

An ordinance was suggested by the Chief of Police for a fairly reasonable noise level which would be acceptable to the residents in that area, but the new business was trying, with the help of some on the planning and zoning committee, to have the level raised to a level that is disturbing to people trying to live in that area.

In my opinion, this is an ordinance that affects our whole community because there are several areas that are mixed zones.

I posted on Facebook about my concern. An acquaintance, who likes the new business and for that reason disagrees with me, responded. The problem is not that she disagrees, but that her response had nothing to do with what I said.

Her response was that rather than worrying about this we should be worried about people who are missing in our area. The City Council, while being able to deal with the noise ordinance, doesn’t really have a part in missing persons, so the argument was nothing more than smoke in the mirrors.

As I said though, I have learned my lesson about diversions, so I responded thus,

“You are welcome to your two cents as much as I am. I don’t know who is missing, and while I hope whoever it may be is found, I don’t think all other city business should shut down because of that. My concern is how the situation affects our town as a whole, not just downtown. Being concerned does not take away from my compassion for anyone who may have a missing loved one.”

I have received no response from this person, and you know why? I did not let her divert the conversation.

The secret here is that people who try to change the subject usually do so because they don’t really have any reasoning to back up their argument. If they change the subject on you they can convince themselves they got the upper hand, and when you let them do so, they’re right.

Carrying The Examples Forward

These examples show just how important it is to understand your reasons. This is especially true in business. If you are trying to create your own business, there will be people who try to convince you not to. They will come up with all kinds of reasons, pertinent and not.

If you want to combat this, you have to understand your motives. You have to understand your vision. Before you ever start sharing your vision with others, take the time to go through the Journaling for Entrepreneurs process, using your journaling time to fully flesh out your plans and ideas.

Take the time to have your reasons fully established, using your journals to guide you through the process. In this way you can cut down on the ability of others to create diversions for you.

Have you ever dealt with one of these diversionary conversations? Tell us about it in the comments.


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