Conversational Coercion


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, 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.


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?


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?


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.


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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