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Trying To Get A Word In

Your recent story about someone in a theatre interrupting a conversation with their own prompted me to tell this story. I’m still a little unclear of who’s in the wrong here and would appreciate yours and readers advice.

I’m a pretty quiet person and fairly content to sit back and listen and chime into the group conversation occasionally.

In one group of friends, however, it’s hard to get a word in. One woman in particular talks A LOT. It’s pretty much a wall of sound and she doesn’t have any problem interrupting what you’re saying to get going. The dynamics of the group means that people also tend to just let her talk. Subsequently, I don’t talk much when I’m in this group. When I do try and say something, I’m often interrupted by this person.

I was getting pretty annoyed by this. And reduced the amount of time I was spending with this group because of it. After a while though I thought, “Well, maybe I’m just being too sensitive and this is just how the group interacts with each other”. The next time I was spending time with them I decided that when I had something to say I was going to say it, whether that interrupted her or not.

Well… it didn’t go down well. I was met with “No, I’m talking let me finish. Don’t interrupt”. Basically, she can stop me mid sentence but if anyone does it to her, it’s a problem.

I don’t particularly want to spend my time with this group sitting in silence but I’m genuinely perplexed as to how to join a conversation when it’s so hard to get a word in edgewise. 0707-18

And why haven’t you tried her own statement to her when she interrupts you?   My husband used to have a particularly clever way of dealing with people who repeatedly interrupted him by saying,  “Oh, I’m sorry. Please forgive me for talking while you were interrupting. ”   Done the right way, it can be a funny way to get the point across.  People like this woman are more selfish than anything else.  They are verbal bulls in the china shop and the only way to get that bull under control is to take the bull by the horns….not exactly something quiet or non-assertive people are comfortable doing.

The other dynamic is that apparently what this woman has to say captivates the audience to the point that they routinely gather to hear her talk.  If she was boring, people would wander away to form smaller conversation circles until her audience is greatly diminished or gone all together.   I’m not sure why you choose to be an audience member when the option exists to start side conversations with someone on the periphery of the group.

{ 25 comments }
{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Kitty July 10, 2018, 8:55 am

    She sounds like a terrible person. If you still want to meet this group, see if you can do so without her being around. You’ll likely find out some amazing things about the previously-very-quiet people.

  • staceyizme July 10, 2018, 9:42 am

    Don’t interrupt her. If she drones on and on, it’s fine to call attention to that. The optimum moment to do that is the next time that SHE interrupts YOU. Dominating a conversation can be a power play. It’s easy enough to shut it down, but it requires the cooperation of the group for it to effect a permanent change. When she’s having a long-winded monologue, lean away from her and look at the group. Are they captivated by her topic or are they being held captive by her “wall of sound”? If they are engaged, entertained and enjoying themselves, then you probably don’t have standing to try to “change the channel”, conversationally speaking. If they look like they’d sacrifice their future inheritance, a promotion at work or Aunt Mabel’s secret recipe for peanut butter fudge- you have an opening. Do start a conversation of your own. Do use non-verbal cues, even exaggerated ones, to communicate your disengagement. It’s probably going to be hard for Loquacious Lips Luna to keep going forever in the face of this. And you haven’t said a word to her. The key is going to be your ability to “read the room”. If you get it right, you will have done a public service for your friends. If you misread the situation, it is YOU who will come across as being a boor.

    • SS July 10, 2018, 5:34 pm

      I have been known to sit and wait for a reasonable amount of time when someone is droning on and on without any chance for anyone else to speak and then I finally say “may I have a turn to talk some time soon?”

  • Harry's Mom July 10, 2018, 9:46 am

    I don’t know about this. My MIL, who is the sweetest person you could want to know, is not capable of having a two way conversation. Any time she’s conversing with you it is a monologue.
    My husband will call her and she’ll start talking and he never gets a word in edgewise, and if you try and participate in the conversation by interjecting it goes unheard, and if you actually interrupt and speak it’s almost as if she’s offended; it breaks her cadence. It was my turn to speak with her and I finally just put the phone on speaker and continued my silent gardening. In person it’s much worse as the best you can do is nod your head and say hmmm and there is nothing you can do to distract yourself. This may make me an awful person, but it’s really a bizarre situation to be in.

  • Dyan July 10, 2018, 9:54 am

    oh man I think I work with this woman

    • OP July 11, 2018, 4:28 am

      Unfortunately, so do I

  • bandit1970 July 10, 2018, 10:04 am

    Ugh. We have one on our ladies golf league. Constant stream of consciousness from the first tee to the last hole. If you try to get a word in, she talks over you. If you do, she turns the conversation back to what she was talking about. And to make it worse, she’s a classic one-upper. You get a par, she had three. You know the type.

    Fortunately, I only have to play against her once a year. My friend was playing in the same foursome against another golfer. While her opponent was in the tee box, chatterbox kept droning on and on. We had backed up to the path and our cart as we wanted nothing to do with her monologue so she was essentially talking to no one. Fourth golfer turns to chatterbox and asks “Will my tee shot interrupt your conversation? Or may I proceed?” The look on chatterbox’s face was priceless. Chatterbox remained semi-silent for the remainder of the round, (I think she was pouting more than anything else), but the Dame is correct. Sometimes a little levity/snark/sarcasm done right can go a long way.

    • Dyan July 10, 2018, 10:50 am

      OK now I know this is the woman I our office…

  • ladyv21454 July 10, 2018, 10:46 am

    This is when a good Sister Mary Elephant imitation would work well.

    • OP July 11, 2018, 4:26 am

      Do you mean an actual elephant noise or is this a cultural reference that I’m missing?

      • Lori July 11, 2018, 5:55 am

        An old Cheech and Chong skit….

        • OP July 11, 2018, 5:15 pm

          I’m glad I looked it up. I was sitting here wondering if I had the courage to randomly make an elephant noise during a conversation.

    • Dippy July 11, 2018, 7:53 am

      Class…..Class!

      It’s from a Cheech and Chong comedy bit.

      • OP July 11, 2018, 5:14 pm

        Haha I just looked it up on YouTube. Thanks for the laughs.

  • sillyme July 10, 2018, 1:10 pm

    I think I’ve been guilty a little bit of this. I ramble. I pontificate. Can I say something though? A bit of Devil’s Advocate? I never learned until much later in life the non-verbal cues that other people depend on for conversation. I’m middle-aged and still learning them. She may be “a horrible person,” or she may have some deficits in learned social skills, or cognitive problems. I don’t know. I am constantly interrupting when someone has “paused” not “stopped,” and I have to back down. It’s embarrassing to me especially on the phone because I don’t know when people have stopped or paused. It’s also driven by a bit of anxiety around people. When I’m around people I know extremely well, and I’m fully relaxed, it’s a different ballgame.

    Yes, it’s rude what she did. Absolutely. But is there a good friend in the group who can pull this woman aside and have a gentle “mentoring” session with her about her conversational skills?

  • kingsrings July 10, 2018, 1:44 pm

    I agree, the only way to solve this problem is to bring it up to the chatterbox. Someone close to them should also bring it up with them in private.
    On a similar note – how does one handle being iced out of a conversation? Say you’re sitting with a group at a table at an event, and they’re not including you in their conversation. What’s the polite way to deal with this? It seems to happen when two or more people who know each other haven’t seen each other in a while, so they’re all excited and want to play catch-up then.

    • CherylAC July 10, 2018, 9:17 pm

      Early in my marriage when DH and I would go to one of his family events (even one like a dinner with his mom and his siblings), they would all catch up on family gossip and I knew none of these people and was having problems keeping everyone in the large extended family straight. On one occasion, I picked up a deck of cards, played two or three hands of Solitare, won all of them, and put the cards aside and announced “I’m bored.”. Almost everyone looked a little uncomfortable, but did try harder to identify the people for me. I also learned to just enjoy my own company to some degree. Now they keep a TV on in one area and the talkers are in another area, although there is overlap to some degree. DH has also gotten better about saying something like “You know Cousin John who did drugs” or something else to make it more identifying for me.

  • JxB July 10, 2018, 4:46 pm

    I also recognize this person – or at least the type. We work with the sweetest gentleman, but he talks NON-STOP. It’s simply not possible to get a word in edgewise. Plus, he goes into excruciating detail. Yesterday, his point was simply how much our city had changed when he moved away for several years and then returned. During that statement (which should have been 1-2 sentences, he listed EACH of the 14 cities he had lived in during the hiatus as well as how long, and throwing in a few details about various locals. All to get back to the statement of how much our city had grown.

    • JxB July 10, 2018, 4:47 pm

      Oops. sorry for typos.

  • Kry July 10, 2018, 5:37 pm

    I had to work with a person like that in a volunteer situation at an all ages drop-in center.
    She was the only person who knew anything and anyone else’s experience was wrong, even with personal experiences, and nobody was allowed to talk when she was. (Which was all of the time)
    The final straw came when a person came to us, highly distressed, almost suicidal, wanting to talk to someone. I sat with this person for quite a while in a quiet corner and we were bombarded with comments like ‘be quiet, I am talking’ or ‘didn’t you hear what I just said’. I asked her to go about her own duties while we talked. We wouldn’t interrupt her.
    After the person left I called a meeting and told the crew what happened and why I can no longer work a shift with the chatterbox.
    Apparently I hold a record for working the most shifts with her.

  • Shannon July 10, 2018, 5:55 pm

    I married into a family of interrupters who talk over one another. Loudly. It’s a constant wall of very confusing sound (I have a learning disability that turns simultaneous voices into gibberish), and it’s completely exhausting. The winner is my mother-in-law, who will interrupt me midword to ramble about a totally unrelated topic.

    Honestly, I zone out. I tried gently asking them to include me in the conversation, asserting myself, pointing out that I hadn’t gotten a word in edgewise in ages, and letting them know I literally did not understand what was being said. It’s clear I’m there as an audience, not a participant, and no one cares what I have to say. So I say as little as possible and go to bed early.

    • staceyizme July 10, 2018, 9:03 pm

      Yikes! Where is your spouse in all this? If he doesn’t help you to deal with his own family, he’s kind of falling down on the job, in my view. Why isn’t he including you in conversation? Cutting in on the verbal bullies who talk over you? Generally, he should act as a bridge to his family (and you should to yours), especially in areas that pose difficulties! If your in-laws don’t make space for you socially by including you in conversations and activities in a way that feels reasonably sustainable to you, they’re pretty awful (at least in this one area). It wouldn’t make most people want to visit very often.

      • Shannon July 11, 2018, 6:58 am

        It’s common in their region and culture for people to talk over each other, it’s supposed to show enthusiasm. And I suspect they really and truly can’t help themselves, they’re like a bunch of little kids who are just busting to talk and will go nuts if they have to wait. Trying to get them to focus and take turns talking is even more exhausting than rolling with it and zoning out. Every conversation is everyone fighting for airtime.

        My husband has stopped doing it at home, because I would simply get up and leave the room when he interrupted me. But I can’t control what his parents do. I see visits (which I keep as brief as possible) as a chance for my husband to get the interrupting and noise out of his system so he can be a better listener at home. Though, truthfully, after the visit that just ended, I’m completely knackered and might just stop going with him.

  • eeek July 10, 2018, 8:51 pm

    Bearing in mind that what sillyme has said above may ring true for me (and perhaps for others), I call to mind two strategies. First, my dear Aunt Lucille’s strategy, which was to stare down the interrupter and, with a loud , continue with “…as I was saying…” This was not gracious or humorous but it certainly got the point across. One does not interrupt Aunt Lucille.

    Sadly, I am not Aunt Lucille. I lack her bearing and gravitas. So I resort to my own way, which may be somewhat less pointed, and somewhat more humorous. When interrupted persistently like this, I stand up, brush the non-existent crumpet crumbs from my lap, and ask as loudly as need be, where the loo/potty/john/facilities/ladies’ restroom etc. may be. While looking into the eyes of the interrupter. If asked, I say, “Oh! you had decided I was finished with the story of my bout with Spotted Fever/Ebola/the US TSA, so I reckon it’s a fine time for me to use the personals. Don’t worry; I’ll be back well before the end of your story. Thanks everso for the hint that it was time to take a break. I would be so embarrassed were I to make this evening out all about me.”

    I know. We aren’t supposed to trade rude behavior for rude behavior, and in truth, this move has only ever gotten to the stand up to go freshen up stage (when other friends pressed for me to continue, and noted the boor had not intended, really, to interrupt).

    I’m sorry; this may not be good advice for someone who may be shy, or who tends to shrink back…but perhaps it is something to add to the rich fantasy life some of us have about how we would act in certain situations. (Secret Life of Walter Mitty, anyone?)

  • J'en d. July 11, 2018, 5:56 am

    Sadly, this could be my husband or mother. They’re both terrible chatter boxes. I’ve had to speak to my husband about it quite a bit. He honestly doesn’t realize he’s doing it – he doesn’t know how to speak succinctly. Whenever either of them interrupt I make a point of disengaging. There is no point once they get started. And I’m not subtle about it. I’ll look around, maybe start a conversation with someone else (if we’re in a group), or otherwise do anything to indicate I am not interested in the conversation. Ive told them both it bothers me, but they’ll keep doing it until they learn to pick up social cues.

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