Surely you’ve been to a dinner party where one of the guests has ideas about, say, politics or the economy that you find illogical—maybe even alarming. Yet he continues to blab on and on about “how things should be” without taking into account anyone else’s opinion. People like this tend to be aggressive, overconfident and, perhaps most annoying of all, uncomfortably loud. And—correct me if I’m wrong—there seems to be more of them around these days.
Is your blood pressure rising just thinking about it? Mine is! And that’s not healthy. So I called life coach and regular Daily Health News contributor Lauren Zander and asked her, “What’s the best way to deal with these opinionated bullies without sinking to their level?”
HOW TO ASSERT YOURSELF—WITHOUT FUELING THE FIRE
Zander’s plan for dealing with a loudmouth…
- Don’t say the first thing that comes to your mind. Though it’s tempting to denounce the shouter as an idiot or to outshout him with your own opinion, doing this will not change his mind. It will lead only to verbal fisticuffs—not to mention discomfort and awkward silences from others at the dinner table. As Zander noted, it isn’t always necessary to state your own principles—let alone fight about them—in order to remain true to them. Instead, while the tirade goes on, take a deep breath and say to yourself, I will not take the bait. With any luck, the loudmouth will soon pipe down, and then you and the others in the group will be able to get back to some real conversation.
- Change the subject. However, what if your loudmouth really is asking for a fight and persists in his rant? To keep him from hijacking the entire event, somebody will have to step in, Zander said, and if you want to be that person, here is what to do. Wait for a moment when the rant has slowed down—and then say to him, “Your point of view is very different from mine, and I understand that it’s really important to you. But we’ll never agree, so there is no point in talking about this further. Let’s talk about something else instead.” Then suggest a new topic—ideally something that is also interesting, but perhaps less weighty, such as food, technology, entertainment, family, travel or hobbies. Even if people at the table have differing opinions about such topics, discussing them is less likely to invoke fury. And, Zander told me, “As simple as it is, this technique of changing the subject tends to take argumentative people by surprise and quiet them.” Before the loudmouth can climb back on his soapbox, you and the other guests are already involved in a different discussion.
All in all, the key to getting less worked up by loudmouths is to let go of the idea that you’re going to “put them in their place” or change them, said Zander. Instead, what can keep you feeling calm and less angry in their presence is to defuse the entire encounter. And whether or not they say so, everyone else in the group will be silently thanking you for it!