Sometimes, despite your best intentions, a difficult conversation veers off course. Maybe your counterpart’s emotions are making progress hard, or the conversation keeps drifting away from the topic at hand. Assess the situation by taking a deep breath, mentally popping out of the conversation — as if you’re a fly on the wall — and objectively looking at what’s happening. You might even describe it to yourself (in your head): “Every time I bring up the sales numbers, he raises his voice.” Next, state what you’re observing in a calm tone: “It seems as though whenever the sales numbers come up, you raise your voice. Can you help me understand why?” Then suggest a new approach: “If we put our heads together, we could probably come up with a way to move past this. Do you have any ideas?” Returning the conversation to its original goal may be enough to get it back on track.