How to Control a Conversation


A reader of this column recently asked: “How do I professionally counter when someone starts with ‘you should’? I’m not quick enough to evaluate the situation and defend myself. I had an incident where I expressed a desire (totally insignificant) and got a ‘you should.’ In this kind of situation, I tend to cave and say ‘right,’ pretending like I’m not insulted. I’m holding a resentment against this person because when I review the facts, I was on the right track and was frustrated because I had no control.”

This is a situation we often encounter and you’re not alone in feeling frustrated. Here’s the thing – more times than not, you do have control. Seldom do we find ourselves in a conversation where we have “no” control. Thinking you have no control simply makes you a victim.

Yes, it’s annoying when someone launches into a “you should” monologue. However, some people have almost an obsession with wanting to help by offering advice. Some people have an obsessive need to control. And some people think they’re helping most by controlling!

Why did you feel insulted? Was it their tone of voice that made you feel inept? And if you knew this person often offers unasked-for advice, why did you tell them what you desire?

How do you maintain control in a conversation? Simple, really. Speak up!

When the person asks, “Do you know what you should do?” Smile and playfully give one of these responses: “No – and I don’t want to know!” OR “I don’t know what to do but I have a feeling you’re about to tell me!” OR “Only if you tell me in five sentences!” Make a joke out of it and cut them off before they have a chance to start preaching.

If the other person is getting carried away giving you advice, you can politely, smilingly say: “Actually this isn’t something I plan on pursuing, so I’m not really looking for advice.”

Why cling to the resentment? Why cave-in and fume as the other person speaks? Why are you afraid of speaking-up? I suspect you’re not responding to the other person because you’re telling yourself something that is making you mute. Whatever it is you’re telling yourself, it’s a lie.

Don’t think the worse of the other person for telling you what to do. Chances are, they’re not even aware of this annoying habit because no one has told them about it!

So, you know what you should do when people tell you what you should do?!

  • Stop feeling powerless.
  • Identify the lie you’re telling yourself which is shutting you down.
  • Start smiling.
  • Take control of your half of the conversation.

You do have power!

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at:

Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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