How To Take Control Of A Conversation

One of the important elements of establishing control is keeping people reacting to you. If they are always reacting to you, it will be hard for them to control anything.

Method 1: Surprise

The first method of control is to be subversive, surprising, and unexpected.

You can learn more about attention in conversations, here, or attention in general, here. Be subversive by pointing out flaws in the argument or different ways to look at the topic people are discussing. Criticism forces people to react. When they react, they do so on your terms.

You can also capture control of a conversation using the surprise and shock attention methods.

Method 2: Frames

The second method of control is to use frames. Frames are the most common way to keep control of a conversation. You can read more about frames in our guide, here, but frames are ways of emphasizing certain things that lead to results you desire. For example, the United States invading other countries can be called modern imperialism or spreading democracy.

Try asking leading questions or focusing the conversation on certain sub topics.

Method 3: Leverage

The final method of establishing conversational control is to actually have leverage and power. This means controlling the resources, which means having what the other person wants. People often want attention, support, sympathy, variety, challenges, or other things.

If you have what someone else wants, you get to set the terms for them getting that thing. Be willing to set the terms of the negotiation and walk away if the person resists.

We discuss more about how to catch attention and then hold it in this article, but try this trick. You can control whether people listen to what you say by restructuring how you give information.


  • Get the other person to whine and complain. When someone whines and complains they are inherently putting the other person into a parental position.
  • Disagree with what the person says. Find some element of their argument that isn’t accurate. Then disagree with it. A great way to disagree in a relevant way is to find an alternate fact or different interpretation of what they are arguing. How does what they are arguing actually lead to a separate and undesirable conclusion?
  • Use frame techniques like questions or emphasis. Emphasize things you want to discuss and minimize things you don’t. Use questions that focus the person on things you want them to think about. Speak less and keep them sharing with questions.
  • Learn to dodge topics you don’t like.
  • Dictate what will happen or tell people what to do.
  • Control time. Set deadlines to conversations or tasks.
  • Get them proving themselves to you. Simply put on a skeptical face when they speak and ask questions. Learn how to be more skeptical here.

Stop these things if You Want to Maintain Control

  • Stop whining. When you whine, you open yourself up to people teaching you. Whoever is teaching is in control. Similarly, being the victim and looking to others to solve your problems causes you to lose control, and manifests in people not taking you seriously in conversations.
  • Stop over explaining. Stop over sharing.
  • Stop asking people how to do things. Learn it yourself. Become autonomous and self reliant.
  • Don’t let people speak for you.

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