Is there anything worse than listening to a know-it-all and not knowing how to shut the mouthy fool up? Not only does it feel bad to be held captive by a “brainiac”, it can also lead to costly financial mistakes. When someone has you in the palm of their hand you are more likely to do what they suggest and that usually costs money. I was recently at a finance conference and encountered a few people who were “legends in their own minds”. While 99% of the people I met there were great, there were one or two that made me want to grab a blunt object and commit a heinous crime by shutting them up – permanently.
Rather than go that route, I decided to use a few of the following techniques to get out from under their evil clutches. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation – here’s how to turn the tables and reclaim your sanity – without getting your clothes dirty.
Get Out of Their Gravitational Pull
People who you find intimidating are usually not trying to intimidate you. It’s just that they are so self-centered and fear-based; they need to fill up all the space in the world with their own voice and personality.
Use an “interrupt” to get them out of their own mind-tornado. Ask a question on a completely different subject. This can get the other person out of their own head and back into a conversation with you. If that doesn’t work – head for the nearest storm shelter – and lock the doors tight behind you.
Introduce A Problem
I was chatting with an “expert” at the conference who was absolutely sure that her opinion about investing was the only thing that mattered. After all, she’d been quoted in the New York Times, Money Magazine and the Wall Street Journal – just like Bernie Madoff before his fall from grace.
When I talk with someone I usually do try to hear what is right in their arguments. That way I can learn something. But this lady was a too much. She kept going on and on and on. Finally, she had to come up for air.
When she did, this is what I said “you are right about bla blab la. But I am not sure you considered ………. It seems to me that …………” I keep going as long as possible making the best points I could. This was all I needed to refocus her attention away from herself and get her back into an engaging conversation.
Don’t Accept Their Credentials
If a person with very impressive credentials is giving a lecture, sure it’s best to be quiet and pay attention. But if you are having a conversation with someone, your opinion is just as valid.
When I began my career the company I worked for had a luncheon with the Nobel Laureate economist Milton Freedman. I never met such an intelligent person in my life and I wanted to get closer. This guy was a rock star to me. I knew that at some point he had to sit down and eat so I arranged to sit at his table.
The sad truth is that when I had my chance I stood like a deer in the headlights. I was simply in awe of this world-class economist Dr. Freedman and I didn’t say a word. But he didn’t allow it. He asked me for my opinion about the company I worked for and many other questions. In this particular case, Dr. Freedman demonstrated an interest in my opinions and experiences.
If Milton Freedman sees value in learning from others far below his pay grade, why shouldn’t the noisy clod who is all up in your face? Don’t be intimidated by someone with lots of letters after their name. Milt wouldn’t like it.
Don’t Feel Like A Number
If you are talking with someone and they start throwing out facts and figures, it can be tough to stand your ground. If you aren’t as well equipped, you are at a disadvantage if you stay on that field.
Your solution is to take a two-pronged approach. First acknowledge that you don’t have the same data. Then introduce either a new problem (#3) or move on to a different aspect of the issue (#1). When you realise that you are playing a game you can’t win start playing a different game.
One of the worst ways to be intimidated is to be ignored. This is a pet peeve of mine and something I just find intolerable. The solution? Share your truth.
Be polite of course but tell the other person that you feel ignored. Don’t accuse them of anything. Just share your own truth. This is a win-win for you no matter what happens. If the person wakes up and starts having a real conversation with you, you achieve your ultimate goal. If the person continues to behave as if you aren’t there, you know that the smart move for you is to find something else to do with your time.
Life is way too short to feel “less than”. No matter what potential gain there is, don’t fall for it. Use these techniques to be treated as you should be. You’ll feel better about yourself and you’ll make better financial decisions to boot.
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