For example, you can tell your friend is furious at you, so you try to dodge their inevitable fury. You may do a nervous laugh and say "Wow, you look great!" or "Nice weather we're having!"

What would be a good way to describe that, preferably using a verb?

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. Single word requests typically require an example sentence so answerers can be as precise as possible. You can edit to add one (although you’re already getting answers, so thanks for a nice question!).
    – Pam
    Nov 24, 2018 at 15:29

3 Answers 3


The word that comes to my mind is ‘diffuse’, as in the common phrase “diffuse the situation”.

To diffuse a feeling, especially an undesirable one, means to cause it to weaken and lose its power to affect people.

  • The arrival of letters from the president did nothing to diffuse the tension. [VERB noun]

(Collins Dictionary)


It's perhaps obfuscate.


NOUN [mass noun]
The action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible.

‘when confronted with sharp questions they resort to obfuscation’

  • What's that to do with dodging an issue? Obfuscation is another, different tactic.
    – Kris
    Nov 25, 2018 at 9:23

It's a diversion tactic.

George K. Simon, Dealing with Covertly Aggressive Personalities, "The Unbounded Spirit":

Another example of a diversion tactic can be found in the story of Don and Al. Al changed the subject when Don asked him if he had any plans to replace him. He focused on whether he was unhappy or not with Don’s sales performance – as if that’s what Don had asked him about in the first place. He never gave Don a straight answer to a straight question (manipulators are notorious for this). He told him what he thought would make Don feel less anxious and would steer him away from pursuing the matter any further. Al left feeling like he’d gotten an answer but all he really got was the “runaround.” [emphasis mine]

diversion (WP)
(military) A tactic used to draw attention away from the real threat or action.

  • 1
    I would have used 'defuse the situation', but according to [en.oxforddictionaries.com/usage/diffuse-or-defuse] both are acceptable. Nov 24, 2018 at 9:25
  • Sorry - the above comment was meant to be attached to @Ivana's answer. Nov 24, 2018 at 9:31
  • You can't really use 'diversion' as a verb for this situation, though - 'diverting' doesn't really match the meaning of talking around something. Nov 24, 2018 at 21:36
  • @JosephPaduch Diversion is the tactic -- the act would be playing diversion tactics -- note that the request is only "preferably a verb" but not necessarily. Diverting is irrelevant, though.
    – Kris
    Nov 25, 2018 at 9:21

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