Overcome Conversation Power Plays: Five Steps to Success

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Overcome Conversation Power Plays: 5 Steps to Success

When you know you are supposed to "just shut up and listen," and you really want to get your point across, you have options. Follow these steps to reclaim your own power.


You know how frustrated you feel when you're in a one-sided conversation, you have something important to say, and you just can't seem to get through.

In a conversation power play, it is assumed that if someone can successfully avoid responding to you, he or she wins.

You are supposed to fold your tent and silently steal away-or the modern equivalent, just shut up and listen and act as if the most powerful person in control.

If you stay quiet, you agree and she wins.

But...You don't have to be a loser.

Assertiveness Techniques

Instead of just fantasying violence or giving up in disgust, use these steps.

1. Repeat yourself

Yes, the first assertiveness step is that simple, just repeat the words that were ignored before.

If you don't get a response...

2. Answer whatever they have said, briefly

Then immediately say, "And I just said..." and repeat yourself again.

If he doesn't respond yet and goes on with his original point...

3. Feedback what they have just said using these words

"I understand that you (want, believe, intend) to (repeat his point). What I don't understand is how that relates to ...." Now repeat your original point again.

Still no response?

4. Up the assertiveness pressure again by commenting on the conversation

"I have said this 3 times, and you are acting as if you have not heard me at all."

Now, depending on your objective, you have more assertiveness choices. Here are two possibilities.

5a. If your objective is to get co-operation, say this

I need your view (or response to what I told you) in order to help you accomplish (a mutual objective)."


5b. If you want to defuse the situation and allow him to save face while you de-escalate the power struggle

you can assume the blame for the uncomfortable conversation. "I'm sorry, I must not have communicated clearly about...."

Frequently a power play will be stopped at step one or two.

You can go to step 5 a or b, at any time, in order to refocus the conversation.

This article was contributed by Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., author of Dare To Say It!

Copyright 2006 Laurie Weiss, Ph.D.

Laurie Weiss, Ph.D., author of Dare To Say It!, is an internationally known executive coach, psychotherapist, and author.


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