How To Control A Conversation

My client Clint (names changed) recently began our coaching session with a classic question:

“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 so many of us encounter and I reassured Clint he was not alone in feeling frustrated.  BUT – 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.

I asked Clint to consider why he felt insulted. Turns out, it was the “helper’s” tone of voice that made him feel inept.  In addition, he hadn’t asked for advice and he didn’t want advice!

He acknowledged, though, that this person often offers unasked for advice.

Yes, it’s annoying when someone launches into a “you should” monologue.

  • Some people have an obsession with wanting to help others by offering advice.
  • Some people have an obsessive need to control.
  • Some people think they’re helping most by controlling!

So, 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!”


“I don’t know what to do but I have a feeling you’re about to tell me!”


“Only if you tell me in five sentences!”

Make a joke out of it and then cut them off before they have a chance to start preaching.

If the other person manages to give you advice, you can politely, smilingly say, ”Actually this isn’t something I plan on pursuing, so I’m not really looking for advice.”

AND why do you cling to the resentment? 

Why cave-in and fume as the other person speaks?  Hmm. . .is it because it’s easier than directly addressing the situation?

Why are you afraid of speaking-up? 

The real reason we are afraid to respond to the other person is because we’re telling ourselves something that is making us mute:

  • Don’t make waves.
  • Don’t cause a scene.
  • Don’t hurt feelings.

Whatever it is you’re telling yourself, it’s a lie.

So, what should you 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.

And remember:

Don’t automatically think the worst 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.

You do have power!

Do you want to break through the negative thinking that is preventing you

from being influential and heard?

To explore how one-on-one communication skills coaching can help you present you

with enhanced confidence,

contact me at:


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