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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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September 2, 2009

What to do When They STILL Won't Stop Talking! | 2

Living Room Dialogues

At the last Living Room Dialogue entitled "What to do When They Won't Stop Talking," some participants expressed an interest in another session about what to do someone either in a group or in a personal interaction takes over a conversation and monopolizes it.

Eight people returned for this session, Pamela Zivari facilitating and Board Member Laurence Berg participating as dialogue design consultant. She suggested that we think in terms of how to transform the interaction when someone is monopolizing in such a way that the relationship(s) between people are not damaged. Perhaps relationships can even be enhanced when a "monopolizer" is brought into a more equitable exchange.

Pamela first asked participants to think of a conversation where another person was monopolizing and what feelings they had about that. Also, what would change in the relationship if the monopolizer were restrained.

One person described a family dinner party which would not only have been more enjoyable if the monopolizer's chatter had been stopped, the group might have found out what was really important to that person. Another said she tended to let the monopolizer go on because if there is disagreement, she doesn't see another alternative. Others said that they let it roll on out of politeness - not wanting to offend the talker.

All agreed, however, that when interactions were one-sided, they either physically or mentally departed when they became bored or frustrated by the talker. Relationships would be enhanced if such interactions could be made more mutual.

Two members of the group agreed to role-play a situation when one person (A) was monopolizing and the other (B) tried to redirect the conversation. In the role-play, the two people appeared to have different agendas. Person B tried to talk Person A out of what he wanted to talk about but got drawn into his agenda nevertheless. Discussing this role-play afterwards, one participant suggested sending an "I" message to Person A telling him what she needed in the conversation and describing her frustration. Someone else suggested opening up the problem by saying something like, "you want to talk about this and I want to talk about that. How can we work this out?"

Person A, however, said that he felt his agenda was essential and he was not likely to change his view. One solution would be that he would be connected with some person or persons who shared his concern other than Person B.

Two situations then developed in the meeting:

One person broke into the discussion demanding in a very strident way that a person taking photographs during the meeting stop doing it.

Although the analysis of the role play ended, one participant interrupted the discussion of what to do about that in order continue stating stating her views about the role play and laying out how she thought such an interaction should have gone. The person who had played Person B got drawn into defending the role play.

The rest of the meeting was spent sorting out these conflicts.

Some comments made at the end the meeting about what each person had learned in the course of the evening.

  • It's good not to be too thin-skinned.
  • The conflicts in the group provided a good learning situation.
  • It was helpful that the people in the group knew each other well and had good relationships because that enabled us to go more deeply into the feelings underlying the conflicts than we would have otherwise.
  • Everyone in the group this evening seemed to have moment of monopolization when they were thinking about something or were distracted by something other than the issue under discussion.
  • It was interesting to think about how I should respond to a person who feels they have to say something I thought shouldn't be said.
  • 80% of conflict can be resolved by talking things through.
  • I recognized my feeling that I needed to move things away from conflict instead of dealing with it.

The meeting ended with all conflicts defused and good will restored.

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