I’ve often envied people who have the gift of taking over a room. Be it charisma, charm, good looks, or fame—the reasons have never really mattered. To dominate the attention and conversation of everyone in the room by simply walking in is a real gift that I hope to experience at least once in this life.
But there’s another kind of person who dominates the attention and conversation of everyone in the room who does so not to the admiration of everyone else, but to their annoyance. You probably know this person. You might even be this person. I’m talking about the small group Conversation Dominator.
The Conversation Dominator probably raised in his hand in grade school at every question posed to the class. He or she is smart, experienced, and opinionated. Silence in a conversation may drive them crazy, or maybe they just like to hear themselves talk. Whatever their past or their motives, they tend to dominate the conversation in every group meeting, frustrating you and many others in the group.
But the Conversation Dominator can be dominated, and in a manner that is respectful and edifying. Consider these methods for dominating the Conversation Dominator:
1. The Preemptive Strike. Interestingly enough, the Conversation Dominator often is unaware of his or her crime. But as the group leader, you are aware, and this gives you an advantage. One of the best ways to dominate the Conversation Dominator is to strategically engage him or her with a specific question that you also know will be an asset to the conversation. That person gets to talk, but only because you called on them and only about the subject you broached. The result is a shorter, more helpful engagement that you control from beginning to end.
2. The Redirect. One of the more effective ways to respectfully and subtly bring a Conversation Dominator to a more a manageable place is look for a place in their narrative to interject a question or clarifying remark. This forces him or her to pause and reflect and change course in their conversation, giving you the opportunity to end their contribution as soon as they answer your inquiry. This often takes the form of redirecting the Conversation Dominator back toward the point you were trying to make anyway, so the redirect is a win for the whole group.
3. The Tag-a-long. Though some Conversation Dominators will (frequently) seek your approval to talk, others jump right in and blindside you with a story or illustration that jolts you off course. I’ve found one of the more effective ways to get back on track is to quickly find the place in their narrative where you can say, “That’s an interesting experience. I’m wondering if anyone else in the group has had a similar or contrary experience.” By tagging another member of the group to contribute to the Conversation Dominator’s story, you simultaneously validate their contribution and end their domination.
Of course, some people never learn, and you may need to have a “come to Jesus” meeting with the Conversation Dominator at another time during the week to more directly express your concerns. But more often than not, these three methods go a long way towards dominating the Conversation Dominator.
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at Lifeway Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.