The term “disengage” often has a negative connotation. When we think of having a conversation with someone who is disengaged, what comes to mind? Is it someone who is distracted on their phone or computer, someone who isn’t really listening or interrupts to talk to someone else? When we think about influencing others, Disengaging can actually be a powerful tool to use to increase productivity; it’s not always a bad thing!

If a conversation isn’t going well, is unproductive, or you sense that someone is distracted or uncomfortable, it might be best, for both of you, to disengage. Disengaging doesn’t mean that you need to interrupt the other person or rudely stop the conversation. Instead, disengaging can be in the form of postponing, changing the subject, taking a break, or giving feedback.

Here are some examples of the Influence Tactic of Disengaging:

Postponing: “Maybe it would be best if we take one more week to mull these ideas over.”

Changing the subject: “We seem to be stuck on this topic, how about we move on to the next point on our agenda?”

Taking a break: “Let’s take a coffee and bathroom break and reconvene in 15 minutes.”

Feedback: “I like your ideas for the ABC project, maybe we could use some of those for our upcoming XYZ project.”

In these examples, it’s unlikely that anyone will feel offended or interrupted. Letting people know that you intend to come back to the topic eventually will assure them that you’re not trying to avoid the issue. Disengaging can simply be a way to move a conversation forward. Everyone gets stuck on one topic from time to time; sometimes it is best to move on or come back to the subject.

Next time a project feels like it isn’t moving forward, try a positive method of disengaging. You can even try this in your personal life. It’s likely to get you further than staying stuck on the same point.