How to Smooth Talk Your Way out of Trouble

Two Methods:Getting Out of Trouble With Your ParentsGetting Out of a Trouble with an Authority Figure

We all get in trouble sometimes—sometimes we deserve it, sometimes we don’t. But there are ways to avoid trouble, punishment, and danger, depending on who you are talking to. One way to get out of trouble is to use smooth-talking conversational techniques that can help ease the situation.

Method 1
Getting Out of Trouble With Your Parents

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    Act honest and sincere. This will go along way to getting on your parents’ good side. Someone with an honest-looking demeanor can go a long way in convincing someone you are innocent, or, at the very least, remorseful.[1] Arguing or whining will just prolong the conversation and will not work in your favor. [2]
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    Avoid stress signals. These are verbal and nonverbal signals that many people associate with lying.[3]
    • Look the person in the eyes. Do not glance around furtively. Even though eye movement has been proven to not be associated with lying, many people still make the correlations.
    • Do not fidget. This could be playing with your hands, gesturing, putting your hair behind your ears, or other nervous tics. Try sitting on your hands or grasping your hands together to avoid fidgeting.
    • Power prime. Power priming is when you think back to a time when you were in control or had power. Calling upon these memories can affect how other people perceive you. By putting yourself back where you were when you were successful and/or cunning, people will perceive you that way, too.
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    Start sentences with “Yes, I agree that….” This method of speaking will show that you are interested in learning and cooperation, not defensiveness. Finish the sentence with something specific, not something general. This tactic will show them you are listening and that they are being heard.[4]
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    Do not lie. Lying will end up being more costly in the end. You will feel trapped by the lie you set up or caught in a contradiction.[5]
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    Put your feelings into words. Instead of letting your feelings come out in a passive-aggressive way, or not at all, say them in a sentence. For example, say “Mom, I’m ashamed about what I did” or “I feel guilty about what I did.”[6]
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    Speak empathetically. Understanding your parents’ point of view will open up a lot of possibilities.[7], and then you can begin speaking to what they are upset about.
    • For example, let’s say you broke a window. They may not be upset about the broken window—they may actually be upset that you did not tell them about it immediately, or perhaps money is tight and the unforeseen cost is causing them stress.
    • Figure out what they are truly upset about, which might be different than what you see as important. What they are upset about may be different than your point of view, but it is key to becoming empathetic with your words.[8]
    • For the window example above, instead of saying "I'm sorry I broke the window," or "I didn't mean to break the window," speak to their concerns. say "I should have told you about the window immediately" or "I know things are tight right now, and I'll pay you back with my allowance."
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    Compliment them. Be kind, respectful, and complimentary. Go so far as to recognize the work they do and flatter them. They probably do not hear it enough, so coming at an opportune time like now will work in your favor.[9] You could say, "I know that this is probably the last thing you want to deal with after a long day at work" or "You do so much for me and this was unacceptable behavior."
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    Offer something you can do to make up for it. This is a good idea because it shows that you are taking initiative. And it is one less thing that they have to do. This is a good way to mend the situation and show you are sorry.[10] In the window example, you could offer to pay for it, or clean the windows for a month.

Method 2
Getting Out of a Trouble with an Authority Figure

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    Start sentences with “Yes, I agree that….” This method of speaking will show that you are interested in learning and cooperation, not defensiveness. Finish the sentence with something specific, not something general. Then they know that you are listening. This also makes them feel like they are being heard.[11]
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    Lighten the mood. Telling a joke or use humor—not to make everyone laugh, but because humor can help diffuse the situation.[12][13] It will also show that you are not afraid. Make sure you do not cross the line and say something that will offend the person and get you in even more trouble.
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    Flatter them. Everybody likes to hear good things about themselves, so find ways to compliment them.[14] Be kind and respectful, but don't go overboard or they will see through you. Remember, flattery isn't just complimenting, sometimes it's stroking someone's ego and making them feel powerful and in charge. "Wow, you guys get to wear the coolest uniforms. I've always wanted to be a cop when I grew up."
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    Shift the conversation from you onto them. If you are in trouble, then they are focusing on making your uncomfortable. When you swing the spotlight back in their direction, it will neutralize the situation and they will not have as much control over you.[15] Again, tread lightly, you just want to shift the conversationally naturally on to them, not suddenly become the accuser.
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    Speak to what benefits them. Convince someone that you getting out of trouble is in their benefit. Instead of making it clear what you want—to get out of trouble—use your words to make them feel a perceived self-interest in doing what you want them to.[16]. For example, "I'd hate for you to have to waste your time writing this ticket out, maybe we can work something else out?"
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    Point out a connection. Can you find a connection to the person? Maybe you are from the same area, or know the same person, or even know them really well. Use that connection to remind them that you are similar. This will make the person have more empathy for you and will be less likely to want to get you in trouble.[17]
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    Admit to a lesser offense. You should still deny the main accusation, but studies have found that admitting to a lesser offense are more likely to be believed than someone who admits to a smaller offense than flatly denying any involvement.[18]. "Well, I may have been messing around in the no skateboarding zone, but I wasn't actually skateboarding" or, "I have to confess, I have skated here before, but that was years ago, I was younger and didn't know what I was doing."

Sources and Citations

  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/living-single/201107/looks-can-kill-your-better-judgment
  2. http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/talk-to-parents.html#
  3. http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolkinseygoman/2013/07/09/do-you-look-like-a-liar-when-youre-telling-the-truth/#739e02aa483c
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Article Info

Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions