“You Are Dominating the Conversation!” – Creating a Welcoming Conversation Persona
Have you been told that you are dominating the conversation before? Having a conversation with friends may seem like a trivial affair, but it requires skill and attention to detail to create a welcoming conversation atmosphere. For those of us who have the tendency to ‘dominate’, we may find it disheartening when someone tells us that we are not giving them space to share and contribute – be it a discussion, conversation, or even a meeting.
Dominating a conversation can come in various forms. You may have someone who dominates the speaking duration, adopt a monopoly of conversation topics, or is simply antagonistic when discussing contentious topics. This may not be intentional – sometimes, you may be driven by a strong excitement to share your topics. This excitement may result in taking more of the conversation space or preventing others from safely joining the discussion.
With that starting point, here are three tips you can keep in mind when developing your welcoming conversation persona!
Tip #1: Wait, Analyse, Explore
It is important to create a general awareness as to how your conversation habits are. These are your unknown ‘unknown-s’ habits that you may not be aware of and can negatively impact your conversations. The challenge is to allow yourself that headspace to acknowledge the discussion happening, time your responses, and allow the creation of an open, safe conversational space with your conversation partners.
One helpful habit is the WAIT Approach. Start by Watching out for key conversation pivots, themes, or points of discussion. Once you extract the key aspects of the conversation, Acknowledge them by attributing the discussion to the various partners. For example, instead of:
Person A: I just came back from a trip to Malaysia.
Person B (You): Wow, I went to Malaysia last week too – it was amazing, my family …
Try this approach instead:
Person A: I just came back from a trip to Malaysia.
Person B (You): Wow, that sounds fun – I hope you had a great holiday.
The conversation does not stop there! You can then proceed with an Inquiring process by asking further about Person A’s perspectives through open-ended questions (e.g., how was your trip?). Finally, Tag Onto the topic by building on what your conversation partners have shared. Remember that tagging on means to add on to the same topic and not to substitute with a different topic altogether. In the scenario above, elaborating on your own full holiday experience would substitute the main sharing but limiting your sharing to a similar experience (e.g., shopping in Malaysia) will keep the conversation on its original track.
Tip #2: Park It Aside
But what if you really want to share your thoughts on the topic? Being less dominating in a conversation does not mean relegating your points or being quiet the entire conversation. Instead, the focus is on the timing of your input to the conversation. Knowing when and why you contribute a point to the conversation can help you appear more measured and careful.
To start, try the Park-it-Aside Method. When you see an exciting opportunity to contribute to a discussion, set up a mental carpark to set aside the point you wish to share. This acts as a double advantage as you have more time to let your response sit and develop as you listen to the other party. If you feel strongly about joining in, set out your intent clearly, e.g., “I apologise for interrupting – this is a strong discussion, and I have one point on ABC to share before you continue ….”
Tip #3: Watch That Tone!
While the content of your conversation is key, effective communicators know the importance of their vocal delivery as well. A shift in your vocal tone can make you sound over-excited, dominating, or even aggressive in a discussion. Vocal variety in a small-scale, intimate communication setting (such as a conversation or discussion) is likely to be different from a presentation. Knowing how to match your tone to the context is key!
For a conversation, start with a neutral tone that does not fluctuate too frequently. If you find yourself getting excited (e.g., tone and pacing increasing sharply), take a pause to create immediate awareness of your tone and modify it. You can try adopting a slower pace generally, offering opportunities for interruption if needed or allowing better control of the conversation.
Have a Great Conversation!
Conversations are a wonderful social tool we use every day – be it a formal discussion or an informal catch-up with friends. To avoid the complacency of dominating a conversation, it remains important to keep in mind the key techniques that can help you create a safe, open, and flowing conversation space. We hope that with the three tips above, you can participate in your conversations with style!
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