4 Ways to Shut Down a Conversation Dominator

Conversation Dominators. We all know at least one. It’s the woman at work who only asks how you’re doing so she can jump in and tell you how she’s doing. It’s that guy next door who has to let you know all about his son’s great accomplishments in sports, but never asks about even ONE of your kids.

There are several ways to deal with Conversation Dominators. The method you choose will depend on your willingness to be assertive and your goals for the situation. If the Conversation Dominator is a close friend, you might choose differently than if the Conversation Dominator was a person you didn’t like and with whom you had no interest in continuing a relationship.

1. Let the Conversation DOMINATOR know you (or others) need some of the spotlight.

If you want to be assertive and direct in dealing with a Conversation Dominator, you could say, “Amy, I enjoy our friendship and our conversations. There are times though, when I feel like I’m doing most of the listening and I don’t get to share with you what’s going on in my life. I don’t mean to criticize, but I wanted you to know how I felt because I value our friendship.”

If the Conversation Dominator is in a meeting or other group setting, you could address the issue on-the-spot by saying, “Amy, you have some really great ideas on how we can fund the project. Thank you for sharing them. I want to be sure we explore all our options, so (turning to the group) what other ideas does anyone have?”

2. Stand up for yourself when a Conversation Dominator interrupts you.

Even if a Conversation Dominator agrees to try not to dominate conversations, we have to realize that the behavior isn’t something that began overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight. Therefore, we need to be prepared to stop the behavior as or before it occurs. If a Conversation Dominator interrupts you to take over a conversation, you could say, “Excuse me. I’d like to finish explaining my idea and then I’d be happy to listen to yours.” The key to this approach is consistency. You have to step up every time a Conversation Dominator interrupts you. If you only say something one out of 10 times, the “correction” isn’t effective and won’t help change behavior.

3. Become a Conversation Dominator yourself.

A less direct approach would be to become a mini Conversation Dominator yourself. For example, when the Conversation Dominator takes a breath to tell you about the next accomplishment on his kid’s list of accomplishments, use the opportunity to jump in and say, That’s so awesome, my daughter Kelsey just. . .” and then grab your fair share of the conversation. Although not as assertive or direct as option 1 above, it can sometimes get the job done. The result will likely be one of two things. The Conversation Dominator may get the hint and allow you some “air time,” or the Conversation Dominator will get annoyed because he or she can’t share the stage and will move on to talking to others who allow the domination to occur.

4. Disengage from the conversation.

If you’re not willing to take a more assertive approach, another passive approach would be to subtly disengage from the conversation. Stop saying, “uh, huh,” break eye contact and look elsewhere, or start doing something else. If you’ve been trapped by a Conversation Dominator in the hallway or a meeting room, turn sideways from him or her and look intently in the direction you’d like to be going. You can also try taking longer pauses between your comments, such as “uh (pause) huh.” This will cause a disconnect in the conversation and may make the Conversation Dominator uncomfortable.

You could also be more direct by jumping in when the Conversation Dominator pauses to take a breath, or interrupt politely and say, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I have to head to my 10 o’clock meeting,” or “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ve got to get back to my desk to finish a report,” Then just say good bye and walk away.

Finally, a special appeal to Conversation Dominators: If you want to build and maintain balanced and happy work and personal relationships, set a goal of letting others have the stage in conversations. Instead of being the one talking all the time, make a concerted effort to engage others by asking them open-ended questions and really listening to their responses. Don’t interrupt, or try to “one up” people, just acknowledge them and then ask another question. Your domination tendencies can be curbed with a little bit of effort and some basic courtesy and concern for others. You’ll also gain the benefit of better relationships as people learn how much you really care.

 

If you’d like to learn more about being a more assertive communicator with Conversation Dominators and others, check out my book, Practical Communication- 25 Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Getting Along and Getting Things Done. 

 

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Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world

The world is falling apart, so why bother looking?

I was just laid off. I’m too shocked to do anything.

Why look for a new job? There is nothing but the virus out there.

If you have avoided looking for work during the coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone. As the comments above — culled from my coaching sessions — illustrate, many people have not started their job search, or are approaching it in a half-hearted way.

I understand. The pandemic has really shaken the business world as millions of jobs have been lost. It is a difficult time to look for work, and it’s easy to think, “Why bother?”

But there are openings. Some businesses are hiring.
Earlier this month, LinkedIn stated that more than 180,000 people had recently been hired through its connections, and in May the United States added 2.5 million jobs.  Do not give up. Job seekers who are persistent and determined are more likely to succeed. 
Here are 10 suggestions to help you in your search:

1. Update your resume and social-media sites. This should be among the first things you 
do. Your resume may not be current, as you weren’t planning to be unemployed. Add any new jobs, promotions, activities, awards, or additional studies. There are lots of online resources that may help. Google “resume writing” and you will find numerous examples of ways to structure your information. Or hire a professional resume writer. You may need to create more than one resume, depending on the types of jobs you are seeking.
2. View your search as a full-time job. Since you are unemployed, you need to use the time you would have spent at your old job looking for a new one. Yes, I do mean 9 to 5!  Of course, you can be kind to yourself and take a longer lunch break and a day off occasionally. But the bottom line is this: At the end of the day, you want to feel that you worked.  (If you are taking odd jobs to help make ends meet, your day gets even more complicated.)

3. Have a quiet, dedicated work space. This is the place where you keep your job-search materials, and do your searching. If you have young children at home because of the pandemic, this may be harder to achieve. Get creative. One man I know took over half of the dining room table.  
4. Create a daily work schedule. List the activities you need to do. This makes it more likely you will actually do them. Some of these activities include:
      
–Checking online job sites, such as indeed.com or simplyhired.com
–Checking the websites of companies you want to work for – many companies list job openings  
–Spending time on LinkedIn, applying for jobs, and connecting with your network
–Reading articles on the web about conducting a job search 
–Taking an online class to enhance your skills
–Allowing time to exercise! Yes, build that into your schedule, too
5. Respond to openings quickly. You don’t want your application to get lost in the shuffle. Many people may apply, and you want your resume to be one of the first to arrive. This makes it much more likely to be reviewed.  
6. Stay in touch with your colleagues and network. Let people know you are looking. More people get jobs through networking than any other way. Your friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends of friends can’t help you unless they know you’re looking. 
7. Participate in your professional associations. Though you may not be able to network in person, you can still interact with other professionals online through virtual training, conferences, and networking events. For example, my son’s professional association recently held a “Cocktails, Conversation, & Connections” Zoom meeting. 
8. Be prepared to interview via video conferencing. In addition to preparing answers to questions you think you may be asked, you need to prepare to present yourself professionally online. Know how to use the technology. Practice. Position yourself in front of a neat, uncluttered, and quiet setting. Be aware of what others will see behind you. Make sure there are no controversial objects in bookshelves or on the wall. Dress appropriately – as though you were being interviewed in person. Your location needs good lighting. You want to be seen clearly, without any shadows hiding your appearance. 

9. Use your college career center.  Though most centers have suspended in-person meetings, they still provide many resources, including reviewing resumes, holding virtual workshops, and posting job openings. 

10. Be a resource for others. Let other job seekers know if you learn of openings that might be suitable for them. When you help others, they are more likely to help you. 
    
Additional information on job-search activities may be found in my book, The Communication Clinic:99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes. 

Pachter & Associates provides seminars and coaching on business etiquette, presentation skills, career advancement, professional presence, and business writing. For additional information, please contact Joyce Hoff at Joyce@pachter.com. (www.pachter.com) 

Don’t Whine About Your Job. Do Something!


My coworker hates her job. She keeps complaining to me. I have tried to talk to her about what she could do, but she is not listening. She is worried about finding a new position during the coronavirus pandemic. 
 

My husband keeps threatening to quit his job. He only comments negatively about his job and the people who work with him. I wish he would just do something.

My friend was having difficulty with her schedule, but she didn’t go to her boss to discuss alternatives. She just quit. When I had a problem, my boss adjusted my schedule. My friend’s might have been adjusted, too, if she had said something.

As these comments from participants in my seminars indicate, tackling problems that affect our work lives can be difficult. 

When some people become dissatisfied with their work, they do nothing. Perhaps they don’t know how to proceed, or maybe they don’t believe there is anything they can do to improve the situation. Usually, the only action they take is to whine about their bosses, their colleagues, or the work. 

Unfortunately, complaining doesn’t accomplish anything – except having your friends, colleagues and others stay clear of you.

Some, on the other hand, get so frustrated that they impulsively quit their jobs without having another lined up, or without even a plan for the future.


 Both reactions can affect your career negatively. However, there is an alternative that can help people evaluate their work situations. Answering the following four questions encourages people to take action and decide their next steps. 

1. Ask yourself, what is the real issue? It is easy to say, “I hate my job,” but it is important to identify why. What is the real issue that is causing you to be unhappy? Be honest and be specific. Is it the type of work you do, or just one aspect of the job? Is it the commute, the money, your boss, the people you work with, or any number of other causes? One man I coached liked most of the facets of his job, but wanted to quit because he had to make frequent presentations. Another realized that her new position involved using unfamiliar technology, which made her feel uncomfortable and unqualified.  

2. Can you solve the problem? Now that you have identified the issue, is there something that can be done? Is there a realistic solution? If so, what do you have to lose by asking for it? Make the case for your suggestion, including any benefits to your department or to the company. Remember that if you don’t speak up, chances are nothing will change. 

3. Are there advantages to this job? If you can’t solve the problem, think about what you are gaining from the position.  Don’t just quickly say, “Nothing.” Here are four possible things to consider: 

–Is the job a stepping stone?  Will you need the skills you gain from this position to qualify for a job on the next rung of the ladder? One of my early jobs involved working for a horrible boss. Yet I stayed until I had gained the experience I needed, and then I left.   

–Is there any education or training perk to which you have access? Some companies will fund part or all of your ongoing education. This can be a major benefit for many people. 

–Who are you meeting? Does the job allow you to interact with people and build your network? If so, it is possible that by having a strong network, additional job opportunities will come your way. 

–Can you learn to manage your boss? Learning to work with difficult people is an important skill that almost certainly will be beneficial to you at some point in your career.

4. Is it time to start a job search? Depending on how you answer the above questions, you may decide that it is time to start looking for a new position. (Specific suggestions for looking for work during the pandemic can be found in my blog, Looking for a job? 10 tips to help you succeed in a coronavirus world). You may even decide to change careers. Any number of alternatives may now be available to you. This doesn’t mean you just quit your job. Generally, it is best to look for a new job (or career) while you are still working at the old one. 

Information on conducting a thorough job search can be found in my book The Communication Clinic: 99 Proven Cures for the Most Common Business Mistakes.   


Whether you decide to stay at your current job or to look for a new one, feel good about your choice. You are doing something: You have taken charge of your career. 

I post regularly on communication and etiquette. We can connect via LinkedInTwitterFacebook or my website:pachter.com
  
About: Barbara Pachter is an internationally-renowned business etiquette and communications speaker, coach and author of 11 business books. She helps individuals communicate more effectively and enhance their professional presence.  (bpachter@pachter.com)