Know When to Hold ’Em and Know When to Fold ’Em
“The rock the stone mason rejects will go on to be the cornerstone for the new world.” —True Believer
In today’s lesson, we will learn about the importance of walking away from a conversation.
Understanding Power Dynamics in a Conversation
We talked about how conversations are influenced by body language, environment, and the channel of communication. One important aspect that can’t be forgotten is the social status and needs of both individuals. Social status can be the person’s standing within society (CEO, politician, celebrity, etc.) and their needs (financial, emotional, social, etc.). In every conversation, there’s a push and pull between both parties on who determines the frame of the conversation. When engaging in a conversation, the party that has higher power or fewer needs has greater control over the conversation.
Spotting Power Plays
Whether you’re talking one on one or in a group setting, you can see slight tells that indicate who’s in control of the conversation. Not all power plays are as overt as those shown below, but if you find a person in a group setting displaying one or two of these traits, odds are that you have found the Alpha in the group. See if you can spot the following power plays in the next conversation you have:
Freely interrupts people. The Alpha cares little about what other people have to say. If you are trying to get your point across, the Alpha will cut you off and take the conversation in another direction.
Speaks more than others. The Alpha loves to hear themselves speak. When you see someone hold the group’s attention longer than the norm, without interruption, you’re usually dealing with the group Alpha.
Holds contempt for others. Inwardly, the Alpha has contempt for others or anything that challenges their dominant position. They project this by dismissing others, using sarcasm, or smirking at other people’s comments.
Ignores your comments. When you speak to the Alpha one on one or in a group setting, they will ignore what you say, indicating that your ideas have no value.
Punishes people for disagreeing. The Alpha hates any perceived challenges to their dominance. If they spot a challenger, they will quickly go to neutralize this threat by dismissing the person or cutting them off from access to the group.
Speaks slower and louder than others. The Alpha has control over the channel of communication and doesn’t fear that others will talk over them. Thus, the Alpha takes their time speaking.
Is the center of attention. The conversation must be focused on the Alpha’s needs. If you find the conversation diverting from things that the Alpha isn’t interested in, they will quickly refocus the conversation on their needs.
The Mistake of Trying to Appease the Alpha
If your intention is to change how the Alpha thinks of you, don’t waste your time. By trying to win their favor, you are acting out supplicative tendencies (self-promotion, ingratiation through gift giving, yes-man-ism, etc.) that on the surface, look like a strength but at the core, are wrapped in weakness. Supplicative tendencies are unappealing to the other party because they make you appear inauthentic and exude neediness and submissiveness. This puts you in a position to build a relationship based on domination and contempt, not mutual respect and trust.
When It’s Time to Drop a Conversation
As you spend time trying to win the favor of a particular person, there are thousands of other people who are more than willing to speak to you and have more to offer than who you are chasing. It’s better to focus on finding people who like you for who you are, rather than trying to get people to like you or change their impression of you. Of course, we can all improve our lives, but if someone is asking you to dance to their tune for their acceptance, it’s better to walk.
Great conversations are rooted in personal integrity. If you have to lie to yourself in order to keep a conversation going, it’s time to exit. The following are questions you should be asking yourself during a conversation:
• Does the other person only care about themselves and is unwilling to let you speak?
• Are you masking who you truly are in order to impress someone?
• Are you trying too hard to get the other person to talk?
• Is the person trying to verbally hurt you by dismissing your point of view?
1. Look through the list of power plays to see if you know anyone who demonstrates these tendencies.
2. If the person you’re speaking to is exerting any of these power plays, be aware of it and do your best not to succumb to it.
3. If you’re dealing with an Alpha who’s trying to dominate you, it’s time to walk away.
Tomorrow is our final lesson, which teaches us the most important conversation skill.
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