Who is controlling the conversation?

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Have you ever been excited to tell someone about something that you have an interest in, but discovered halfway through the conversation you have become the listener instead of the speaker?
I have and it is one of the most annoying, and rude, things I can think when it comes interacting with other people.

Imagine yourself wanting to tell someone a story about anything. You are really excited about it and can’t wait to tell that person, but while telling your story you end up being the one listening to the other person’s story and experience with a similar experience; or even worse, it ends up in a ‘difference of opinion’ debate.

To use a very broad term, this is usually done by people who has a slightly unhealthy appetite for attention and being in the limelight. I wouldn’t be shocked if most of these people did it without being aware of that they are rudely interrupting conversations.

Everyone has a story and everyone prefers that everyone else is silent when they tell someone there story.
It has little to do with being in the limelight, for those who just want to tell the story, it has more to do with being appreciated for passing on this piece of information; be it trivial or important.

How do you think someone delivering an important speech to the public would feel if someone constantly interrupted her/him? A bit annoyed, right?

This issue can easily be made into an introvert vs. extrovert. By doing this it makes it more easier to explain what each person can do and not do to improve the situation.

If you are the extrovert who constantly feels they need to add to the discussion, this is why you might be doing it and why you need and have to stop with it right now!

  • Stop and listen!
    Listening isn’t just a passive activity, it is in fact an active activity too. Listen to what the other person is saying and wait until the person has finished talking. Don’t wait for micro-pauses to jump in to the conversation, because it is not a conversation. The person is the speaker and hoped that you would be the listener this time.
    If you show to this person that you are willing to listen, maybe that will make that person more willing to listen to you next time.
  • What you think is not important, this time!
    As you love to be in the limelight and share your views about almost everything, this is not the time! Someone who has an opinion about everything is called a know-it-all, and is not a positive label to receive. Be humble, swallow your pride and pretend you know nothing about what the person is talking so you can let him/her educate you about it.
    By listening, you not only show you care about the topic, but you also show you value the person and her/his knowledge and opinions.
  • This is not a debate!
    Sometimes you have to accept that people have different views than you, and sometimes you have to understand that not all topics are up for debate. Ever experienced someone talking over you, telling you are wrong, questioning your views and knowledge, etc? Annoying, isn’t it? Now stop doing it to other people!
    Just because you have different opinions doesn’t mean it needs to be debated!

Try to understand that doing the opposite of what is written here is a perfect recipe to be annoying, rude and to lose friends very quickly. We all have opinions and stories to tell, but sometimes those stories are best told by the storyteller alone, without your input, views and other verbal interruptions. It’s not that your views are not important, it’s more that your views might not be appreciated all the time.

If you are the introvert who are constantly being pushed aside when telling your story, this is why you shouldn’t feel bad and how to maybe deal with it.

  • Raise your voice by showing who is talking!
    For some it might seem rude to raise your voice when you talk about something neutral, but it is also rude to interrupt someone who is talking. This will show that you have more to say and are not willing to let someone talk until you are actually finished talking.
    The more confidence you show, the less you have to raise your voice.
  • Tell them you are not finished!
    Simply tell them that you are not finished talking and that because you are constantly interrupted you are losing your train of thought. This is more like a guilt-trip approach, and can work if executed confidently and assertive.
    Also try to explain to them that you would appreciate if you could finish your story once in a while without any interruptions, without having to debate your story and just sometimes have your talk treated as a monologue.
    You are the one that wanted to tell something, not them!
  • Stop talking to them!
    This is a last resort tactic, but if you have tried to reason with them that you would appreciate if you could be the one telling the story once in a while too, it might be time to stop wasting energy on this person. Talk with people who actually want to listen to you and what you have to say.
    Why should you pay attention to someone who doesn’t pay attention to you?

As you are dealing with a person who might obviously lack some social skills, there isn’t really much you can do. The first two are more or less attempts to change the behaviour of a person who too often never lets you have your say, and the last one is truly a last resort that I sadly think most people resort to.
Most people who think they need to add their two cents to everything tend to have far too many cents to spare, so they see you are the one not willing to let them have a go at talking.

I think everyone has been there, even extraverted people, when they have met their match, which is a scary thought if you ask me. Sadly enough, they seem to never learn from it, other than take it out on you, the introverted person with polite social manners.

This is not as easy as introverts vs. extroverts, but to explain the issue it makes it easier to use these to personality traits. As mentioned, this is something that can truly destroy any relationship, because feeling that you are never heard or your views appreciated is something no one likes. Everyone wants and needs some kind of positive attention and appreciation.
This can also be easily be transferred over to work situations, where you have the boss who thinks she/he knows everything and the employee is assumed to know nothing. Think about it and suddenly you might understand why you, as a manager, might not get the respect you deserve from your team.

Two proverbs come to mind in regards to this issue.

  • Give and you shall receive.
  • Treat others as you want others to treat you.

So simple, yet so true.

Next time someone has something to say, just listen and act like you are non the wiser about the topic.

About the author:
Dr. W (not that kind of doctor) has always stood up for who he is, but
it was just a few years ago he found out that he fits the introvert
personality trait (INTJ). He has always loved writing, which is why he
eventually ended up as a blogger (randomoid.com). At the moment he is
very influenced by gonzo journalism and new journalism. Most of what he
writes is based on his own experiences; and he prefers to season his
stories with facts, rather than assumptions.

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51 Comments

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Who is controlling the conversation? — Introvert Zone -- Topsy.com

  2. Dr. W, thanks so much for this great post! This topic comes up over and over again in our lives, because we have everything from the “happy participating interrupter” to the “not even listening to you story hijacker” all around us, just waiting for a chance to jump in and interrupt!

      • LOL I love the labels you give those people. And then there is the “enthusiastic embellisher” and the “sound effects guy” – all listening defects. I was taught by people who apparently know that when you listen you’re supposed to a) keep eye contact with the teller, b) nod or shake head or other nonverbal gestures to indicate your responses rather than say them and c) say “uh” every now and then to indicate you’re still with the speaker.

        I’ve become good at it. So good that they never stop talking aaaaargh…..

        • Hey there GoawayBird. I believe I understand where you are coming from. I tend to do this (use sound effects) but I’m not sure why. When I talk most times I have to think of what I want to say. I feel like what I say really does effect people. But I use sounds as well as my words a form of communication (as weird as it sounds) which makes me think I might be an extrovert (or at least be showing some characteristics). When I talk to people I do tend to notice I get a boost of energy when people are happy. But it’s sadness as well. When I notice someone who is down (not just zoned out like people do) I really feel the need to connect. I start feeling bad so I try to cheer them up. I talk to them and most of the time use accompanying noises to make them feel better. I’ve been making noises for quite awhile but I have noticed being pointed out as that guy. I wasn’t going around showing it off but when I talked to my actual friends I do this. I rarely interrupt people when I do I feel terrible and apologize. I usually find myself thinking about it shortly after wards (then comes the feeling of being a snob) Also for some reason I think people assume I don’t care if I reply with a nod, yes, uh, etc. so I try to express myself in this way. I really do imagine myself as somewhat spoiled/selfish though. I try to give a lot of things and I like to do small things for people just because but I always feel like it’s never enough =/

  3. Excellent choice for a guest post!

    I know exactly of what you speak. I know of one person (I’ve made references to this person previously on some other posts) in particular who will, no matter what you are talking about, will ALWAYS end up steering the conversation to their side so before you can even blink, somehow you’ve become the listener and they’ve become the speaker as they simply use your story as a jumping off point to regale you with a story that is sometimes hardly related to what you were talking about in the first place. It’s absolutely maddening. Know-it-all is exactly right.

    As such, as long as I can help it, I’ve chosen to avoid starting any more personal conversations with this person. I want to keep those floodgates sealed shut.

    • Thank you for appreciating my article.

      And yes, sometimes the only solution is to avoid conversations with that person. Not always easy, but if you want to keep the peace between each other and within yourself, then this is the path you have to choose.
      Dr. W´s last post ..Education should be free!

  4. I’ve been in these situations. It’s frustrating to have a story or some news to share when the “listener” doesn’t want to fill that role.

    I’ve had some success with controlling a conversation by asking to be listened to or reminding the person that I’m not done yet. However, even if I can get someone to be quiet for a minute, I often have the feeling (usually from the glassy-eyed stare) that they’re just biding their time, waiting to be able to talk…not really listening at all.

    Unfortunately, we can’t “make” someone listen to us. Not in the way we want to be listened to, anyhow. I know you listed it as a last resort, however, in my experience – the idea of finding someone who *wants* to listen has worked the best.

    Here’s hoping that some of those “non-listeners” are reading and paying attention to your advice! Thanks for sharing.
    Patty K´s last post ..When fear gets in the way of productivity

    • Thanks for the great feedback!

      It is really true about not making people listen to you. All we can hope for is that they will be willing.

      The irony though is if you do not pay attention to them when they are talking some can get very upset. At least that is what I have experienced when trying to give them a taste of their own medicine.
      Dr. W´s last post ..Education should be free!

  5. Happens to me all the time, especially with a couple of more extroverted friends. Sort of funny recently when my counselor asked me if there wasn’t someone I could talk to about my SAD (seasonal affective disorder), which I get in August/September instead of winter, and I said, No, I usually can’t get a word in edgewise?” I’ve had to do both shout and tell them I’m not done talking — indeed, I’ve had to go so far as to say, “I have something I need to talk about and I need you to listen,” then, when they start talking and taking the topic away from me, I have to say, “You aren’t listening to me! I’m not done talking about this!” Sigh

    • I can truly relate to what I have experienced and done. I very often tell people to let me finish and very bluntly tell them it is rude to interrupt other people when they are talking. And sometimes I have also told that discussion is over as I can’t get a word in edgewise.

      In the end I just try to avoid these people as they drain me of so much energy.
      Dr. W´s last post ..Education should be free!

  6. I can relate to this one. My mom would always control our conversation as if she is the only one who is talking. As if I dont have the right to say yes or no. Im really tired of it. When will she change? I dont know. But Im still having hope and more more patience. =) Nice post anyway. Have a good day. =)

    • Unless someone sits down with her and tries to reason with her about it, she will most likely never change and maybe even get a bit worse with the years.

      I have met people that suddenly, for no reason at all, interrupt a conversation between two people just so they can say something, and it was compeltely off topic.
      I have also met people who do this because this is what they grew up with, a parent having this bad habit and now they are doing it too.

      I think you are doing the right thing, having hope and being patient. Good luck! :)
      Dr. W´s last post ..Education should be free!

  7. Yes even I have experienced it many times as being a quite introvert.Sometimes my dear ones can’t listen my story and always I have to become a listener.I think that I should really follow your points specially I can at least say that I am not finished.I know that it will work.

  8. Thanking you for appreciating my article!

    I agree that a good conversation is when you both can share ideas without turning into enemies, but sometimes a conversation needs that silent listener.

    Men are always told to be good listeners, because that is very important for most women; and it actually is a very cheap and simple way to relive stress, to be a listener.
    That was my focus of the article, that sometimes someone has something they want to tell someone and all they want and need is someone to just lend them an ear. Because feeling that you always have to defend what you say or someone always disagreeing with you is not fun at all.

    Thanks again for your feedback.
    Dr. W´s last post ..Education should be free!

  9. Pingback: Who is controlling the conversation? | .random[oid]

  10. I know this phenomena well. I am a slow speaker and people often get impatient waiting for me to finish.

    I have used all of the strategies mentioned. Including walking away and leaving the talker talking to themselves. But that happened only after a developed my self esteem. Each of the strategies take a bit of self esteem to engage in. That was my biggest problem for most of my life – Believing that my thoughts were important enough to be heard.

    Everyone, but especially introverts, can easily develop low self esteem from experiencing this rudeness and mistakenly interpreting it as a reflection of their own worth.

  11. I could not agree more to this post. I always encounter these kinds of people and it always makes my feel annoyed and irritated. Well, I admit I am also doing these sometimes, talking more than the person who is supposed to be the one to share. But at least I don’t just barge in. I wait first for the person to finish talking and then that’s the time for me to share my own views and opinions also. But as for those people who are really aware of interruptions they do to other people, they don’t deserve to be listened to. Barging in without even letting the first person finish talking is an explicit and outright sign of disrespect. This post is perfectly right that they only wanted the attention and to take away other people’s shining moments. :(
    WillowSmith@Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer´s last post ..ROR Sitemap for http-wwwcaliforniaduihelpcom-

  12. I wish I could just tell people who just won’t listen to stop talking and listen to me for a change, but I just can’t bring myself to do it! I often have to wait for a lull in the conversation before I can say what I want to say. :(

  13. Wow!!! Wonderful post. I have a friend that drives me crazy. She does not know how to listen to a story. It is aggravating. I am sure that she doesn’t realize about it, but she has to be the center of every event. She is sweet and very sensitive, so when I try to talk to her about those types of things, she gets very defensive, like I am attacking her… It is very frustrating! I opted for getting along with the situation and just love her for who she is but sometimes I find myself in the shower just fighting in my mind with her… But your post definitely helps me a lot. I’ll apply the strategies you mentioned. Thank you!!
    Gabriela´s last post ..J Krishnamurti on World Suffering

  14. When it comes to work, I let the customer/client talk before I jump in and give my own opinion. I listen intently until I’ve identified the issue and I have a suitable response. It’s when they feel like you’re not listening that they’ll cut you off and continue to interrupt you. The solution: Listen (with intent).

    When I’m just hangin’ with my friends it’s a whole other story. I think we’re all just loud in general. I don’t really run into the issue of feeling like we don’t give each other an opportunity to speak.
    Ricardo Bueno´s last post ..The Map of Online Communities

  15. People like these just want attention. They usually barge in while others are still talking because it’s their way to be noticed. For those who don’t even give others the chance to talk are just too selfish and treat themselves as superiors over the others in their group. The best remedy for this kinds of people, I hate to say this but it’s the reality, better ignore them. If others won’t give them the attention they wanted, they will realize that what they do is not working. :)

  16. I’ve experienced it so many times and it is so annoying. I hate those people who have that attitude and sometimes it is much better to leave than to stay and continue talking to that person. It is not only annoying but also irritating because sometimes, they don’t want to stop their story unless it is the end already and you as person, you don’t have any choice but to listen to them.

  17. Being interrupted frequently as you talk is really annoying especially when the interruptions is because of other people talking things as if you are not there speaking. For a speaker, it is something that shows disrespect because it feels like being disregarded. Not given the chance to tell what he/she is wanted to share for people to hear.

  18. I have a lovely, bubbly, extraverted friend, we’ve had stacks of good times. Now she’s engaged to a guy who just can’t shut up. My friend is an expert in various things, and others around her have expertise in their fields too, but this dude (sorry can’t think of a better description) just railroads everyone. She’s not someone who’d allow people to hijack her stories, but I’ve watched him interrupt her and hijack the conversation from her three times in a half-hour. I was gobsmacked.

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