Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Response Options to
Someone Who
 Lectures You

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Expert's Council

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/lecture.htm

Updated  01-25-2015

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      This is one of a series of brief articles on how to respond effectively to annoying social behavior. An effective response occurs when you get your  primary needs met well enough, and both people feel heard and respected enough

      This brief YouTube clip provides perspective on what you'll read in this article. The video mentions eight lessons in thus self-improvement Web site - I've simplified that to seven.

      This article offers useful responses to the behavior of someone you believe is addicted to something. It assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it   

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2

  • basic options for all responses

  • how to give effective feedback to someone

  • effective assertion and empathic listening skills.


      How would you explain "lecturing" to a pre-teen? Can you define the difference between a lecture and a monolog? One way to distinguish them is that monologs often serve the speaker's need to vent and/or entertain. Lecturing usually is an attempt to instruct and/or persuade the listener about something. It also may intend to chastise or criticize.

      Think of the last time someone lectured you in a social (vs. classroom) setting. What triggered the lecture? Did the lecturer check first to see if you were open to feedback? What R(espect)-message  did you receive from the other person? Lectures may imply "I know more than you do, so I'm 1-up in this situation." Depending on how the lecture is delivered (e.g. voice dynamics, eye contact, and body language), a lecture can imply "I'm right (good), and you're wrong (bad)."

      Note the difference between someone advising you at your request, and lecturing you without your consent. The latter is usually more about the speaker's needs than yours, and is implicitly disrespectful, no matte how well meant. Moralizing can be a type of lecturing where the speaker imposes their idea of right and wrong on you. ("Smoking / over-eating / watching porn / being a Baptist... is simply wrong - period!") 

      Can you describe your normal response to an unsolicited lecture? Irritation? Impatience? Resentment? Tuning out? Interruption? Assertion? Weariness? Resignation? Repression? Pretending interest? Scowling? Counter-lecturing? Head-shaking? Looking away? Defending? Leaving or hanging up? Some-thing else? How do you feel about yourself after responding? Satisfied? Guilty? Righteous? Uneasy? Combative? "Nothing"?

      Some social roles invite lecturing (instructing) - like parenting, preaching, teaching, medicine, and law enforcement, Other roles don't justify unrequested lecturing - so it feels annoying or frustrating. In discussions, each person is interested in what the other thinks and feels. In lectures, the speaker is usually not interested. Do you agree? Do you ever lecture other people? Why? How do they respond?  

      Is there an effective way to respond to unrequested lectures? see what you think of these...

Response Options

  • Check to see that your true Self is guiding you, and that you have a mutual-respect attitude about the other person. If you don't, make attaining those a high priority, and lower your response expectations.

  • Mentally review (a) your mutual rights as dignified persons; and (b) the steps for effective assertion.

  • Decided what you need from responding to the other person - to vent? Inform? Cause change? Set or enforce a limit? Preserve or gain your self-respect? Be 1-up ("win")? Help the lecturer? Battle (gain excitement)? Something else?

To vent or inform

  • "Are you open to some personal feedback?"

  • "(Name), what do you need from me right now?"

  • "Are you aware of why you're speaking now?"

  • "(Name), I feel lectured-at now (...and I don't like that.)"

  • "When you tell me how I should act / feel / think, I feel disrespected and resentful."

  • "So the main thing you want me to know is (paraphrase the speaker's main point/s)."

  • "(Name), what's your point?" (Option - use empathic listening to acknowledge it.)

  • "I feel you're focused mainly on your needs now, not yours and mine."

  • That's your need, not mine."

To cause change

  • "I appreciate your trying to help me - and I don't need 'fixing.' I just need you to listen to me, OK?"

  • "(Name), if you make suggestions, I can hear you. When you lecture me, I can't."

  • "When you're so black-white and absolute, I stop listening to you."

  • "I appreciate your suggestions (Name), not your sermons."

To set or enforce a limit

  • "(Name), if you continue to lecture / instruct / preach at / me, I'm going to (describe a specific consequence)."  Your consequence (e.g. to leave, hang up, interrupt, confront etc.) must be genuine and do-able. It will be useless unless you implement it promptly and respectfully.

  • "Before you start lecturing, I need you to ask if I'm open to feedback from you." (Option - add a do-able consequence if the other person won't comply).

  • "When you preach at me, I'll put my hand up / cover my ears / go 'La la la la...'."

  • "You're lecturing again."

To help the lecturer

  • "You have very strong opinions on this subject."

  • "Do you know the difference between discussing and lecturing?"

  • "Do you want me to alert you when you switch to 'lecture' mode?"

  • "Try using 'I think,' or 'In my opinion,' rather than 'You should / must / need to / have to...'."

  • "What do you think I need from you right now?"

      When you respond, expect the other person to deny, argue, blame, change the subject, offer excuses ("I can't help it"), justify ("But I'm only trying to help you!"), complain ("Why are you so sensitive?"), say nothing, avoid eye contact, get mad, etc. That's a natural reaction, not "bad."

      If s/he does, use brief empathic listening to acknowledge her/him, and calmly repeat your feedback or limit about lecturing with steady eye contact. Repeat this sequence until you get what you need or your needs change.

      Can you think of someone (like a parent or older sibling) who lectures you? How do you think they'd react to responses like these? How would you feel? How do you think they would work with a superior at work or an authority? 


      This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting effective responses to annoying social behaviors. This article offers ways to respond respectfully to someone who lectures you without your invitation. The ways are based on...

  • keeping your true Self in charge,

  • maintaining a mutual-respect attitude,

  • clarity on your feelings, needs, and mutual rights; and...

  • fluency in the relationship skills of awareness, assertion, and empathic listening.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

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