One of my personal biggest bug-bears is meeting up with people whom I haven’t seen in months. Not because I don’t like them but because of the internal pressure I create to ensure I have something to say for myself and my life since we last met. Not that the other person particularly cares and indeed they may also be feeling the same thing but I can often put off meeting up because of this. The anxiety this creates in me can be overwhelming sometimes because it intertwines with me actually taking stock of my life and asking myself “what HAVE you bloody done in the last 6 months?”

I’m a lot better at managing this now – thankfully. I use a variety of Coaching tools to help me through so that a) I can keep extreme anxiety at bay and b) I can actually socialise without feeling overwhelmed. One of my favourite tools to use, is deflection. Deflection can get a bad wrap but used well, can also help you get through more difficult circumstances. Here’s an example of how I’ve used it personally:

When I haven’t seen particular friends in a while, I create unnecessary pressure to ensure that I have something ‘interesting’ to say to them when we meet. If I haven’t lost any weight since I saw them last, I put pressure on myself to justify why – not that they ask but you know that they’re thinking it. If I’m not prepared, I will volunteer a bunch of excuses as to why, I will ‘woe is me’ and seek sympathy for not losing anything since our last meet (where inevitably I talked about needed to lose weight) – quite the tormenting cycle! However, when I’m prepared, the socialising is a lot easier and I have much less anxiety. I plan in advance to use deflection as soon as a topic or question arises that I’m not ready to answer or want to talk about. What I do is a little like revision for an exam and make a virtual list, I think about the last time we met and what we talked about, what I may have heard through the friend grapevine and what I’ve seen on social media since we last met. I then have a bank of questions or ‘deflecting content’ that I can use if the conversation gets tough at any point. I also ensure I’m up to date on current affairs that I know they’ll love to talk about and then we can get into heavy debate about the why the Maldives are sinking for example, rather than why I’m still not at my weight goals.

And I tell you, it works. Some of my friends are also good at deflecting but this is the bad kind of deflection. They deflect when I’ve deflected on a topic that I don’t want to discuss further than the statement I’ve already made and they want to dig deeper (be nosy/gossipy) which I won’t entertain. Unfortunately sometimes, I’ve had to be a bit curt and say that “I don’t want to talk about this anymore” in order for them to stop probing but this is usually my last resort as I can be quite blunt and I don’t like to hurt anyone’s feelings. But then, they should really listen when I’m done talking about a particular topic. However, you can easily engage in deflection ping pong if the person likes to probe or you can distract with something equally pleasing to them. Like something great about them! Boost their ego! Let them know how great they’re looking (even if they’re not – I know that sounds dishonest but you’ve got a few more hours to get through, you need to think about yourself and you’re not really harming them unless they go and enter Miss World or something, then I suggest you hide!) Talk about their clothes, holidays they might be taking, their family, their work – there’s so many things and be really positive and upbeat so when the question comes back to you, you can answer what you’d like to answer and then talk about something else, deflecting off you again.

I swear this works. There’s a little more to it than this simplistic example but for some, this type of example will really resonate.

Have a go for yourself and let me know how you got on or if you need some help perfecting the art of deflection without feeling dishonest about doing it. At the end of the day, you have to care for you without denying yourself the pleasure of being with others. Remember also that it’s easy for us to create ‘stories’ in our minds of how a situation will go and then believe it to be fact when actually, it’s not. It’s our perception, not the reality.

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  • Puja McClymont

    Life and Business Coach

    Puja McClymont is a certified Life and Business Coach in London. Helping professionals achieve clarity and direction in their work and personal lives by improving mindset and confidence. Subtly combining NLP techniques, positive Psychology and Wellbeing coaching, Puja focuses on helping clients manage the pressures of modern living by creating a life by design, with purpose. Host of the Self Care 101 Podcast - a wellbeing podcast that has practical self care tips and support to help you achieve your full potential.