You're having a pleasant conversation when suddenly someone verbally attacks you (or someone else). They say something that causes you to become defensive or makes you wonder; WOW, why did THAT come out of their mouth?!
Here's an example: "Craig that's a stupid rule! What idiot came up with THAT?"
A knee-jerk reaction could cause you to get defensive, start back-peddling, arguing or trying to prove your point. Maybe you take another direction by trying to discount others in attempt to come out on top of the "debate."
...OR you can simply say:
"That's interesting, why would you say something like that?"
...and then listen to what the person says.
After the person says what they need to you can then reflect it back to them. That may sound something like this:
"So what I'm hearing you say is this (repeat back to them what you thought they are said). Is that right?"
This puts the spotlight back on the person who started the verbal dog fight. It also shows a certain amount of empathy and respect toward the person who made the comment; by giving them a chance to explain their statement. It also gives you the time and emotional space to slow things down and think, while cutting through the smoke screen of someone trying to hi-jack a conversation. It can gently expose an emotional attack if that was the intent of the individual. This simple method is a good way to get the conversation back on track.
Try it the next time you get the opportunity! You'll find it to be a very useful tool!
All the best,