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gain control of conversation

We’ve all had conversations that didn’t go quite as we’d planned. Maybe you were trying to talk to a client about a new product, and they insisted on steering the conversation toward politics. Or maybe you were leading a Zoom meeting and certain people continued to interrupt and overtake the discussion.

How can you cope with those interrupters and take back control of the conversation?

Start with these 4 steps:

1. Believe that your voice counts

Enter every conversation with the confidence that your voice (your thoughts, ideas, and opinions) matters. Believe in what you have to say and you will find a way to bring it up in the conversation. Keep in mind: there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. What you have to say is important, but it’s not the only opinion that counts. Your listening ear is just as important as your voice.

2. Acknowledge what the other person is saying

It’s important to let the other party know that, yes, you hear what they have to say. You can also use this tact as a way to step in and take control of the conversation. For example:

“What I hear you saying, Bill, is that you’d like to implement more customer service surveys. I think that’s a great idea that warrants more discussion. I’d like to focus on that more during our next meeting so we give that topic the time it deserves. In the meantime, let’s finish going over our quarterly reports and see what other ideas crop up…”

3. Keep your audience engaged

What you have to say is important; make sure your audience hears it! Instead of lecturing at others, make an effort to engage them. Ask questions, request feedback, and ask your audience if any clarification is needed. If you’re leading a Zoom meeting, request that everyone leaves their video feed on, so active engagement is easier (more tips for Zoom meetings HERE). Make others a part of what you’re doing, not just passive observers.

4. Be direct

Oftentimes, the best way to refocus a conversation is to be direct. Acknowledge what the other party is saying (see tip #2) and then transition into what you’d like to say. Your interaction may go something like this:

“Your family vacation sounds great, Susan, and I’d love to discuss it more tomorrow, but I’m afraid I have to shift the conversation back to business…”

Remember: What you have to say is important! Don’t sell yourself short. Have the confidence to interject when necessary (in a tactful way!) and let your voice be heard.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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Woman looking out window

It’s been a rollercoaster year and, if you’re like me, you’ve oscillated between feelings of frustration, joy, hope, anger, and sadness. Though it may be easy to fall victim to your negative emotions–to let them pull you into despair–that doesn’t have to be. Instead, you can use those emotions to fuel action.

1. Catch Your Emotions

First, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what you’re feeling and when. What sets off your feelings of frustration? What makes you deeply sad? When do you feel most joyful and at ease?

These are the areas that can inspire action. Lean on these intense feelings of joy/anger/frustration to make positive change.

2. Establish Your Scope of Control

Focus on what you can control and what, potentially, you can change. You may not, for instance, be able to singlehandedly stop the wildfires raging along the Western U.S., but you can donate to organizations that are either fighting the fires OR working on rehabilitating the forests or damaged properties. You can also make an effort to learn about fire prevention and the best practices you can take in your own life.

This is just one example of establishing your scope of control. Focus on the small things you can do to help better a situation, such as donating time or money, volunteering, taking an active role in a local organization, or spreading the word via social media. Small efforts can lead to big change.

3. Learn to Let Go

While you can establish control over some things, it’s useful to recognize that other things are simply out of your hands. You can’t, for instance, change everyone’s mind through social media posts (but you might be able to sway a few people through meaningful one-on-one conversations). You also can’t bring people back from the dead, change the past, or have conversations with people who don’t want to listen.

When it comes to these kinds of things, it’s best to let go. Understand your limitations, and don’t let yourself become frustrated by what you cannot do. Be gentle with yourself and learn to shift your focus to the areas you have power over.

4. Burn Energy

If you’re full of pent-up emotions, you might consider taking action in the physical sense. Go for a bike ride, do video workout, practice yoga, go for a walk–exercise can help to clear your mind and get you into a more positive frame of mind. There’s no harm letting your rage or frustration fuel your workouts. Burn off those harmful emotions, and carry on.

There are many ways to respond to your emotions. Do what works for you–whatever makes you feel the most healthy and productive. And, when you recognize that things are beyond your control, do your best to let go.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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“Silence is usually seen as agreeing.” –Sonya Parker

You probably know it when you see it. Something feels off or problematic. Something feels unethical. We encounter these situations in our daily lives, as well as in the workplace—instances when our morals are put to the test. It’s easy to assume that if you “see something, you’ll say something,” but it can be difficult to take action when you’re put on the spot.

How, then, can you gather the courage to speak up? Start with these methods:

Understand Your Power

When a situation is unethical or potentially harmful, one strong voice of dissent can make a huge difference. Chances are, if you’re not okay with something, others are not okay with it either. If you take a stance, others will hopefully gain the courage to follow suit.

Develop Your Approach

It can be intimidating to face your peers or your supervisors and let them know what you think. You might worry about retaliation or not being taken seriously. To combat these fears, it pays to 1) Plan and 2) Talk to others

Your planning might involve laying out bullet points to argue your case. Pinpoint the problem you perceive and explain why you think it’s a problem. Then, prepare some potential alternatives or solutions.

Talking with others helps to build an alliance around your plan. You certainly don’t want to create an “Us vs. Them” mentality, but it is helpful to talk to one or two trusted colleagues to let them know your stance. They might help you refine your plan, offer alternative solutions, or simply provide support.

Determine Your “When”

When you speak out is nearly as important as what you say. If, for instance, you interrupt during a meeting and begin telling everyone about your view, that might not go over as well as, say, setting up a private meeting with the decision-maker or respectfully speaking out during a meeting.

Face Your Fears

It can be frightening to take a stand, but I would argue that it’s even worse to stay silent. If you neglect to say something, you’ll have to live with the unethical or problematic situation, day-in, day-out. It won’t magically go away, unless another brave individual takes a stand.

If your workplace retaliates against you for speaking up, is that really the kind of environment you want to work in? I know that switching jobs sounds daunting, especially in this uncertain economy, but it’s certainly not impossible. Talk with a career coach if you’re thinking about making a switch.

Your voice has power. If something is making you uncomfortable, take a step back, make a plan, and speak up. Tap into your reserves of courage, trust yourself, and take action. Doing so can make a big difference and it will likely help you build confidence in yourself.


MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS® DISCOVERY (AND DEEPER DISCOVERY) LICENSED PRACTITIONER, AND FOUNDER OF UXL. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. 
NOW LIVE: CHECK OUT MARGARET’S ONLINE LEADERSHIP COURSE.

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