Communicating with our colleagues and customers is part of our daily routine. So most of the time, we are not aware of our influence in a conversation or actively using this influence. And that’s ok because if we were, that would probably feel a bit uncomfortable and forced. However, in some situations, it can be useful to take the lead in a conversation. For example, when you want to motivate someone, when you have limited time to deliver a message or when you want to set boundaries for demanding co-workers or customers. Key is to have a strong start in which you take the lead. Three tips to do so:
1. Start positive
According to Positive Psychology researcher Michelle Gylan, it’s a lot easier to take control in a conversation when the other person is in a positive mood. You can stimulate this, if you start of by saying the right words. She calls this the ‘power lead’. For example, if someone asks you how you’re doing, do not just answer with a ‘good and you?’, but give a really positive enthusiastic response to your conversation partner. Maybe you can share something personally. For example, I had a good laugh with my son at breakfast. People tend to take over each other’s mood and emotions; by being open and positive, you also unconsciously stimulate this mood for the other person, which will bring you more in sync.
2. Take the driver’s seat
Before you start to discuss, make sure you agree on the agenda. This gives you a chance to set the boundaries for the conversation and manage expectations. It will help you stay focused in the conversation and avoid sidesteps. In addition, it gives a conversation structure, especially if you remember to summarize every now and then. Start the conversation by stating your goal and which topics you want to discuss. Ask for confirmation; does you conversation partner agree with the agenda? At the end of the conversation you summarize what you’ve discussed and what you’ve agreed upon.
3. Choose your conversation setting
Having a conversation in an environment that makes you feel comfortable helps you to take the lead in a conversation in a confident way. For example, invite the other in your own office or favorite lunch cafe. Make sure you choose a location with as little distraction as possible. A location where you’ll be able to look each other in the eye, since eye contact is key to stay in sync with your conversation partner.