Conversational Dominance and Power: A bit of a rant

Doctor’s kinky teachings: The Vasovagal Response
August 13, 2015
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September 3, 2015

Conversational Dominance and Power: A bit of a rant

We've all experienced it. We all do it from time to time. You're trying to have a conversation with someone but you can never get to your point becau Yes I totally know what you mean, it's like you want to say something but you're just spoken over. It happens all the time and it's so frustrating.

As I was saying, you can never get to your point because someone continually interrupts you assuming Assuming I know what you're going to say next because what you're saying is so interesting and on an subject I really know a lot about, like this one time when we were...

Assuming they know the direction the speaker wants to take the conversation in. Generally they don't. Or even if they do, it takes power away from the speaker not allowing them to get there themselves.


This is my current bugbear. I notice it everywhere, and I notice the feeling it creates when one person cuts another off mid flow. It feels to me like the person I'm speaking to isn't interested, like they are trying to minimise my opinion and prove themselves right. Or like they don't see me, only a fantasy or a projection of what they desire. It feels a bit like a little kick in the chest every time.

I can understand why it happens, sometimes. People get excited, so excited about what they want to say, and this can be a good thing, it can lead to a sparky conversation where ideas are bounced back and forth quickly creating something fast moving and electric. And it can happen when people are nervous and awkward and not reading situations well. Or when two people meet and are used to communicating in very different styles and are trying to find a balance. These are fine, we're all guilty of it. It's when it is a persistent thing, when every conversation is dominated by one person it becomes a problem.

Submissive speaking over the Dominant???

It flummoxes me that often I have to catch this early with clients. Men who come to me to be dominated only to spend the initial chats cutting me off, not listening to what I tell them and pushing their own stories and opinions, some more relevant to the conversation than others. I can see in some people it is a nervous response. Meeting someone new and preparing to do very intimate things together is a rather unique situation, and the normal readings of social cues, conversational flow may be a little strained. I will let it slide in the first few minutes if it's not completely rude (as in cutting in after a word or two I will let slide, but half way through a sentence or story will not be so easily forgotten). But after the initial nervousness starts to subside if this conversation interruption continues I often have to call it.

More often than not the person who has been called doesn't even realise they've been doing it. I have wondered if it might be a gender thing, there are subtle gender power plays happening all the time in the outside world and I wonder whether this is a reflection of male perceived authority that takes a while to shake off when entering a realm where there is female authority. Or perhaps it's less gender and more about what a person is conversationally accustomed to. People accustomed to positions of power for example might speak over others in an attempt to appear bigger and more knowledgeable, to hide any insecurities that they are not in fact enough.

Are you trying to play the big man? You don't need to do that here

In any case, it tells me a lot about the person I am dealing with. If someone repeatedly cuts me off it lets me know that they might be extremely nervous or excited, they are likely insecure at present, they are not self aware and that they are not consciously looking at the subtle power dynamics between us. Sometimes this is part of the power struggle that happens when someone wants to let go of control but can't quite. More often than not that person will eventually let go and things run much more smoothly, I have very little interest in people who don't eventually. Maintaining that power struggle, whilst a fun dance for a while, gets exhausting.

When playing with power in BDSM it's the subtle things that have the biggest effect, things you might not even consciously consider. Do you sit down first claiming your place, or do you let me sit down and gesture to you where you can sit? Do you interrupt me mid sentence or wait until I am finished speaking, even if what you have to say is oh so important and relevant? Do you forcefully push the conversation in certain directions or let it flow naturally? Do you freely give information I ask for or try to maintain control by withholding?

It's not what you say, it's how you say it

Within a minute of you walking in I have a read on you, an idea of how the exchange of power will flow between us, does it come naturally or will it be a struggle, do we gently let it flow or do I need to be more forceful. Whether you want to submit, or want to be the centre of attention and be done to. Understanding these things has absolutely nothing to do with what you say and everything to do with how you say it.

I have a feeling if I started to research this I would find all kinds of interesting articles on the subject, it is certainly a vast and fascinating one and I have only just scratched the surface here. Do let me know if you've read anything particularly interesting on this subject, I'd love to learn more

As a final note, in future pay more attention to how you speak and when you speak, these details are often more imortant than what you say, and always try your best to treat others with consideration and respect in conversation.

One book that I read years ago and is relevent to this subject is Time to Think: Listening to Ignite the Human Mind by Nancy Kline. In it she discusses the many benefits of effective listening to both the listener and the speaker. It massively improved one of my working relationships and I can recommend it if you have any issues in this area.

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