Conversation is supposed to be a two-way activity. There are times, though, when you might need to take control of a conversation. Maybe it’s because you only have limited time, maybe it’s to get an idea across, or maybe it’s because you are not comfortable with the topic of conversation. Whatever the reason, these simple tips will help you take control of a conversation in English.
Make the purpose of the conversation clear and work towards it
If you feel like a conversation is not productive and is drifting away from the main topic, renew the focus again. Use an expression like ‘What are we aiming to achieve here?’ to make your conversation partners stop and think. Once you have reminded them go the goals, you can continue with a more productive conversation.
Speak slowly and clearly
In numerous studies, it has been found that people who speak more slowly give the impression of being more confident and trustworthy. Slow down when you speak and exert your confidence on the situation. Make the other people in the conversation wait a little for what you have to say to show that you are in charge of the situation.
Use body language
Body language is a complex topic and we have covered (English body language [link to previous article on this topic]) on this blog before. In general, you should make sure to keep your hands out of your pockets, don’t fidget, and sit or stand up straight to show how confident you are. To take things a step further, you could gesture confidently with your hands to suggest who should speak next.
In order to take control of a conversation, you need to understand what the other person is saying. Listen carefully and base your arguments on what the other person has said. If you give them a fair chance to speak first you can come back with a stronger argument and justify it based on what they have said.
Be clear about what you do and don’t want to speak about
Sometimes, you might need to direct the topic of conversation. Use an expression like ‘Let’s focus on (topic)’ to tell someone what you want to speak about and if there is something you don’t want to talk about, just say ‘I don’t want to talk about this now because (reason)’. If it is something you think would be better dealt with in another way, give the person that option by saying ‘Take some time to think about this and put your ideas in an email to me’.
Remember, you don’t need to be rude to take control of a conversation when you need to. Just be firm and polite, and make yourself clear. Use the techniques above to make sure your conversations are enjoyable and productive.