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Conversational Coercion

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IF YOU DON’T AGREE WITH ME, I CLAIM TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD

Conversational coercion is manipulating the outcome of a conversation in a pre-determined way, to gain the upper hand strategically in order to get your way. For example, I may say, “You’re not listening!” when in truth you’re simply not agreeing with me. That example of conversational coercion is a twisted talk trick which shows you that it’s going to be my way or the highway for you. But at what expense? A good relationship?

INSTIGATORS ARE THE BEST DEBATERS

Instigators, or I-types, will be the first to tell you that the very best ideas stem from a good, fierce debate. What they won’t tell you is that their ideas aren’t always the right or best idea on the block. Now, truth be told, we all want to get our way. It’s just a plain old fact that Instigator communicators are masters at getting their pet ideas heard and acted upon. Are they good, or what? But there’s a cost involved: Conversational coercion leaves feelings of frustration and misunderstanding, and creates a disconnect with others. To put it dramatically, Empathizer communicators can feel conversationally mugged or raped and their confidence assaulted.

TECHNIQUES USED TO VALIDATE AND STRENGTHEN A DECISION OR POSITION

Coercive communication implies: “I’m doing the right thing here…I’m fighting the fight for good, not evil…It’s a battle between right and wrong…I’m taking responsibility here, so just take my word on this.” There are a multitude of pushy or coercive talk techniques:

• I’m a good person, and I’m not mean spirited, so…

• My intention is good so you should…

• This is the right thing to do because…

• If it’s a bad decision, it’s because I made it with limited information…

• If I had it to do all over again I would make the same decision, based on what I knew…

• Listen to me because I’m older…smarter…I care for you…I have more experience

It’s a good ole communication chess or poker game. Summed up, all coercive transactions intimidate you emotionally and send you packing on a guilt trip in this way: “Since I stand on moral high ground, you should listen to me and do what I want you to do!” Now, don’t you just feel loved from your eyelids down to your toes?

SECRETS OF THE TALK TRADE

The above examples coerce co-communicators to make them think that responsibility is exercised in a “righteous or moral” manner, when in fact, it may or may not be what’s happening. A few secrets of the coercive talk trade from my Instigator (I-types) guy and gal pals:

1. I am a tough debater, but I realize I also limit talk options.

2. If you don’t agree with me, I claim to be misunderstood.

3. Actually, I become frustrated that I’m not hearing from you what I want to be hearing.

4. Is this working for me? Not really. If the spirit of a conversation is to engage another person, then I shouldn’t shepherd or steer them into a position that limits their options.

5. I shouldn’t choose Empathizers’ positions for them. But I do.

6. I can talk circles around my opponents. Conversational coercion really limits Empathizers’ response options and flexibility.

7. This can precipitate a defensive posture with my E-type talk partner. Example: I limit the options so severely that the Empathizer communicator has to fight his or her way out of a corner.

8. As an Instigator, I’m guilty of “Conversational Abuse,” because I can focus the topic on a negative point and draw everybody into the fray.

9. Because I am an I-type, I have no doubt that a good defense (The Deflecting Defense) is a good first-strike offense.

10. As an I-type, I also believe that communication is a chess or poker game. You’ve got to play to win the point. It either forces agreement or makes the other player come up with a counter-argument very quickly, or a siege will follow. Who cares more? Who will be the last one standing? Who will not surrender the point? Who will have the last word? I will!

11. I am doggedly determined as an I-type, and my mental gyrations or exercises are incredibly exhausting on everyone involved. What I label as “damage control” is a real energy-drainer, and it often causes extreme relationship friction.

12. I can conversationally set the agenda and place individuals into positions they will have to defend. I say authoritatively, “Here’s the issue…and here’s what you think about it!”

13. Not only do I define the issue, but I also attempt to define how the people at the Communicator Table think about it.

14. True, conversational coercion has diminished utility when there is less of an emotional bond or connection, but I employ this approach professionally when someone isn’t buying into my plan. I take pot shots when I can, but without trust present, my co-communicator doesn’t listen to me.

15. I-types use verbal intimidation and re-directing. I can exert pressure and be verbally intimidating. I also create the urgency to hurry up and decide, because time is wasting.

16. Biggest drawback of being a tough-minded I-type? I can get my way, but it might be at the expense of finding a better way.

17. I restrain Empathizers with my I-type talk tactics. I jail rather than liberate. What is the enticement to enter into a conversation when you’re told what to think, how to think it, when to think it, and you have an emotional connection turn out to be a burden rather than a blessing?

IF YOU SEEK TO CREATE COMMUNICATION FREEDOM

What should you do if you seek to deepen the bond, create communication freedom, be open and visible, and be free to come up with more effective ideas? You must recognize that throwing punches of conversational coercion simply doesn’t work to accomplish positive intent.

Try this Positive Self-Talk Tool: “I will practice changing my habit of dominating a conversation, which leads to disconnecting and quashing disagreement. I will practice traveling in a middle zone instead of always trying to monopolize the dialogue. I will stop limiting the options of my talk partner. Empathizers have a right to speak up, too. I will approach an emotional topic with a cool-headed openness for both input and possible outcomes.”

“I’m in the right here because…” is a coercive talk technique that is a big lie told by small-thinking people.

ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS PSYCHOLOGIST DENNIS E. O’GRADY, PSY.D.

Dennis O’Grady is a relationship communications coach, corporate trainer and pioneer of the innovative Talk to Me© effective communication system, which streamlines communication that is productive and useful, inside your head, inside your company, and inside your relationships. Communication mistakes and accidents plague us all, but the Talk to Me© approach to good communication will help boost your mood, keep your energy up, and free you from the tar baby of negative relationships or emotions.

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  1. BELIEFS THAT ZAP TEAMWORK

    By Dennis O’Grady

    A negatalker is addicted to negative chatter that zaps teamwork. Are you a legend in your own mind? Perhaps you’ve been zapped and your energy has been sapped by this zinger: “You’re not listening. Why do you always have to be SO negative?” When someone says that to you, the attempt is to make you feel bad for disagreeing with the speaker.
    Aren’t you entitled to your own opinion, though, without being conversationally beat up? Your “zapper” would be more honest and direct to say, “Please don’t be honest with me, and please don’t tell me what you’re truly thinking and feeling because you’re really making me uncomfortable and anxious.”

    WHY YOU CATCH MORE FLIES WITH HONEY THAN VINEGAR

    Whoa! Perhaps no one ever shared with guilt trippers that they can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I believe you get more positive by being positive, and that negative begets negative. Unproductive communicators who are afraid and unaware of their feelings, both negative and positive, talk and behave in ineffective ways that inadvertently zap teamwork at work and home. Negatalkers hammer you with, “It’s my way or the highway!” which is one-way communication of the worst kind.

    THE PROPAGANDA OF PESSIMISM

    Are you trying to exert control via a cynical attitude? Here are a few things to know about negative talking that blocks and closes down creativity:

    * Negative talking derails teamwork by dragging good deeds through the mud.
    * Negative talking assassinates new ideas.
    * Negative talking makes you and I act dumb and goofy.
    * Negative talking promotes the kind of thinking that says, “I/we’re so smart and right and our customers are a pain in the neck and SO wrong!”

    (Here’s a refreshing thought: Why not talk positively for a change about/to the very people who butter your bread, valued people such as your boss, spouse, co-worker, customer, child or all of the above?)

    ENERGY DRAINERS AND CHANGE ZAPPERS

    Negative talking that demotes optimism and promotes pessimism via the twin villains (or sycophants) of Fear and Anger to flourish in the workplace and home occur when you and I:

    (-) Put grease on the squeaky wheel BUT don’t change the oil in the car
    (-) Think of yourself or others as too “chicken” to change
    (-) Stay too busy to think outside the box
    (-) Fix what isn’t broken…and don’t fix what is broken
    (-) Keep grousing or listening to listless griping
    (-) Make excuses and take excuses
    (-) Only do what you’re told to do
    (-) Stir the pot for some cheap entertainment
    (-) Cause trouble to make you and your job seem more important
    (-) Worry about what people will think or say
    (-) Work hard only when others are watching
    (-) Be cynical, steal credit, crucify compliments
    (-) Play the blame game zealously
    (-) Pat on the back popular people who are idiots
    (-) Put off feeling happy until your life’s humming along perfectly
    (-) Keep a death grip on the status quo
    (-) Keep on wanting what you don’t have…and not wanting what you do have
    (-) Run frantically on the “I don’t have the time!” treadmill
    (-) Worship being smart or right instead of wise
    (-) Go along with “group think” to cement your job or to get along
    (-) Keep procrastinating by doing what’s important last
    (-) Mindlessly salute negative belief systems that don’t work
    (-) Believe “poise under pressure” is futile
    (-) Fail to take healthy risks by fearing failure
    (-) Keep on doing what doesn’t work
    (-) Close your mind to facts while opening your mind to fear
    (-) Keep key information sequestered
    (-) Don’t share your true experience to make change happen
    (-) Hide the truth behind a smokescreen of propaganda and rhetoric
    (-) Be too bored to try something different
    (-) Sound negative when positive results occur
    (-) Spurn healthy disagreement
    (-) Spend lots of money to feel good or powerful
    (-) Go home burned up and used out…and then yell at the cat, dog, kids
    (-) Don’t try anything new that will change your mind about your negative thinking

    A CHAIR TO CHEER FOR CHANGE

    Every boardroom and kitchen table ought to hold an empty chair designated for the respected colleague and beloved family member or partner called “positive change.” Personal success means telling the whole truth and respecting the need for growth and change-not keeping a death grip on the status quo and padding the box you keep yourself in.

    DROOPING MORALE … BOOSTING YOUR MOOD

    I personally need to practice mood managing because I can become impatient and surly when I’m around close minded thinkers and pessimistic speakers. For instance, I’ve never much cared for negative chat or idle water-cooler chatter that wastes my time and yours by putting down workers or customers who do good things to keep a company or family afloat. In fact, that’s why I personally use the Talk to Me system that boosts mood and drives positive and effective communication.

    DO YOU LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH AND THEN PULL ITS’ TEETH?

    Are you a Positalker? Of course you are! You are thankful … grateful … peaceful … and you accept a gift horse without looking at its’ teeth. In contrast, Negatalkers look a gift horse in the mouth, and then pull out the horses’ teeth! Don’t let a Negatalker put preconceived notions in your mind about what will or won’t work in your life. You must judge the effectiveness of positive thinking and speaking tools. Why not instead be brave of heart and talk positively for a change of scenery?

    GOOD TALK ISN’T CHEAP…IT’S PRICELESS

    The best way to enjoy living in the present and controlling what you can is to worry less about what you have precious little control over — namely, naysayers and the negative beliefs they worship. Stand up to negative people and speak the positive. Stand up for good communication that drives positive change!

    ABOUT COMMUNICATIONS PSYCHOLOGIST DENNIS E. O’GRADY, PSY.D.

    Dennis E. O’Grady has a B.S. degree (Bull _hit degree) from Pessimism University, also known as PU, where he received a 4.5 (out of 4) G.P.A. in his Bad Attitudes studies. Dennis went on to receive his E.S. degree (Elephant _hit degree) from PU, in the Psychology of Digging Holes So Big You Can Fly Planes Into Them. After jumping into many holes of his own digging, as well as some dug by others, Dr. O’Grady received his B.O.N.K.A (Being Optimistic Never Killed Anybody) degree from the Wright State University School of Professional Psychology. Ralph Real (also an alumnus of P.U.), in his Pessimism Street Journal review of Dr. O’Grady’s third book, Talk to Me: Communication Moves To Get Along With Anyone, gave the book a thumbs and toes down, while sticking his nose up in the air. Real went on to say: It’s a stupid book. Just another ‘fake it until you make it’ treatise on why it’s better to feel bad than good. The author seeks to line his pockets at the expense of big newspapers like this one. This is just another example of why you can’t fix stupid. So if you’re smart…you’ll think like me…Ralph Real. O’Grady had only one thing to say in rebuttal: Being Optimistic Never Killed Anybody!

    Comment by Dr. Dennis O'Grady — November 10, 2007 @ 10:33 am

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