Tag: verbal self-defense

How to Push a Conversation Forward

How to Push a Conversation Forward

“How can I push a conversation forward when I’m shy?”

I hear this sentiment a lot from my shyer clients. They look at someone else more outgoing and wonder “Why not me?”– and all that does it build a bigger gap. That’s speaking with distancing language after all.

Don’t do that.

Set your sights on closing the distance. No matter whatever innate talents you are (or aren’t) born with, you can still cultivate skills. You can reshape weaker abilities. Building habits is the cliche term, but let’s just say you need to create new tendencies.

At this moment, maybe you tend to freeze up or shut down in certain social settings. There’s a limited or complete lack of movement. For a conversation to flow, you need to open up to the idea of movement.

Without any movement, there isn’t going to be any interaction. No interaction means no conversation.

The first and most basic movement for communication is the push.

Push to Reach Out

Many people who come from an introverted background will overthink the push:

  • This means I have to be on the offensive.
  • Pushing means I have to be aggressive.
  • The bottom line is I need to attack this conversation.

Those are all possibilities because there are many different ways to push:

  • You can push a door open.
  • You can slam a car door.
  • You can shove your clothes into a bag.

Not every push needs high energy. In fact, it’s even better when little thought is given to it– just like how you usually give little to no thought when pushing open a door.

A push can just be a push.

You don’t even have to think about extending your arm. You don’t think think about placing your hand on the door. Your mind is already thinking ahead about all the stuff you need to do once you’re on the other side of the door. (Like, where the hell did you park?)

Instead of stressing over how much energy you need to bring to your push, simplify the movement to reaching out. In terms of speaking then, you’re not worried about the “perfect” greeting or opening– you just open yourself to making more attempts to engage.

You don’t overthink the outcome. You don’t overthink how well it goes. You (slowly) take yourself from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat.

Push to Initiate

You know how cars these days have a push-start? Same concept: you push to go. With a presentation, whatever you “put out” in the introduction can be considered a push.

  • When someone interrupts you for direction? That’s a push to find help.
  • Whenever someone has a question in general? That’s a push for you to follow up.
  • Without a push in these instances, what would happen? Nothing.

Push to Follow Up

Remember that the same movement people use to ask you can be your movement as well. When a conversation is interesting, you usually want to keep it going, right? So what do you do? You do some kind of follow up.

Maybe the follow up is a comment. Maybe the follow up is a question. Sometimes if you don’t initiate the push here, the other person can mistakenly think you’re not interested. Then, the topic changes.

Unnatural Pushes

Be sure to implement these concepts at your own pace.

Opening yourself to be more proactive is good. However, you don’t have to force yourself to push all day, everyday. There can be a downside so pushing just for pushing’s sake:

  • People follow up on things they don’t really care about.
  • People ask way too many questions unnaturally, making it feel more like an interrogation.
  • People end up making the interaction one sided.

Those points serve well to remind us that the art of conversation requires a delicate balance of selfishness.


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How to Handle Nagging Part One: Extended Family and Social Events

How to Handle Nagging Part One: Extended Family and Social Events

I remember growing up and being real conscious of my looks– just like everyone else was in their teens. Eventually I came to terms with the face that stared back at me in the mirror, probably thanks to anime. For me, it was a proud moment… that was short-lived because my Mom just couldn’t get past it.

She did not mince her words, “Look at your face! You need to see a doctor! Nothing’s working!”

So we booked an appointment to the dermatologist, and he recommend I be put on a new drug that was making waves at the time: Accutane. Before taking it, I had to sign a release and waiver. I read through the possible side effects: chapped lips, depression and suicide, X% chance of death…

Risk death for a clear face? No way!

“You’re signing this! It’ll be worth it.”

Thanks, Mom.

Navigating the naggings from family members can be a real tricky thing. When you’re living with them, you’ll probably want to minimize your interactions if possible. But how about the big family events when you’re surrounded by people who you don’t see on a regular basis?

What do you with that aunt who can’t stop talking about your dating life or your uncle who won’t stop joking about your weight?

Luckily, handling extended family is much easier. It’ll take a few extra steps, but it’s not too far removed from the concept of ignoring them.

First, let’s break down the factors that make family communication “work”. Family members, especially when they’re older than you, would really “appreciate it” if:

  1. You listen to what they say.
  2. You do what they say.

Ideally, they’d want you to follow through on both points. But with extended family you only see once or twice a year, we’re only really concerned about the first one. After all, they’re not going to really see if you kept your word or not… until next year. We’ll worry about that later!

Next, you have to be aware of the context and how it plays into your actions. Because this is one of a few limited chances to interact with you, they’re going to make a point to talk to you. Avoiding them outright and trying to hide are only going to increase their determination to seek you out.

Now does that mean you have to bend to every word they say? Not at all!

This is where you get to implement what’s universally despised by everyone: small talk attitude.

The reason why small talk sucks? No one gives a shit. Everyone’s detached. They can be pleasant enough, but nothing said has any real weight or impact.

This is where the tables are turned. You’re going to use this cordial indifference as your weapon. To take a line from Verbal Self-Defense, you’re going to go into “computer mode”. You can’t get heated or upset about it. You’re wasting your time if you think, “Oh, well I’m going to let him/her have it!”

Why? Well, whenever someone has that need of “I just got to get this off my chest”, it’s one of the most selfish things done in communication. It’s not about you, it’s about what they think they have to say. It’s the anti-thesis of what all communication should really be about: connection.

Again, you’re not really letting them give you commands to obey, you’re just going through the motions so they think they are. And for a lot of folks, that’s going to be enough.

“Oh yeah, you’re right Aunt DeeDee, I should find someone to settle down with soon. And you’re totally on point Uncle Jeff, I must’ve packed on some extra pounds from all this pie (I never eat).”

That’s not real talk. That’s not really listening. But the appearance satisfies that familial need for you to listen to what they say.

Try it out!

Let’s be clear, this isn’t going to work for everybody. Some people are especially stubborn. The strategy I pointed out above probably isn’t going to work when you’re living with the person. In a future post, I’ll cover exit strategies and advanced conflict management.


Mom, in case you’re reading this, you know you’re my hero. I just needed to pull a memory that demonstrated my point, and it was either this one or the time you made sure I wasn’t an interpreter.

For everyone else, maybe you’d like to work on your social skills with a speech coaching session?