Many times when dealing with difficult people, you might feel like that person is dominating the conversation. One simple tool to deal with that dominating conversational behavior is to change the topic. Think of the conversation as a dance and the difficult person is leading the dance/conversation. All you have to do is take lead, and change the music. If done correctly, that deflection can easily force the person to change gears. When he or she does that, they may end up moving away from the difficult topic and you can then gently lead the person to a healthier conversation.
Changing the topic doesn’t have to be about another serious topic. You don’t even have to relate your topic to the conversation at hand. I have had occasions where the difficult person is stuck in a rut and won’t get out of the conversational circle which is only further exacerbating the problem. I have changed the topic by talking about lunch, kids, soccer, or any completely unrelated topic. Indeed, when changing the topic the person who is stuck in a rut may even be taken aback that you are changing the topic. But in many cases, by the time the person gets back to the topic he/she wished to discuss, the heat of the moment has passed.
By the way, did you see the Steelers game last night….