General Etiquette > general

The art of polite group conversation

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This is something that has bugged me for a long while, and I really have no clue as to what is the polite way to handle these situations.

For example: You're sitting at a round table of 6 people possibly at a restaurant*. You ask the person across from you a question. They answer, then other questions are asked and spin-off conversations ensue, such as the person next to you makes a side comment directed to you, somebody else starts talking to the person next to them, etc.

Then before you know it the person across from you (PAFY) is talking to the person next to them about the subject that you are interested in hearing about while you're politely trying to converse with the person next to you who went off on a tangent.

I would think that it's impolite to cut off the person next to you saying "Wait, I would like to hear PAFY's response." Pretty much saying "I want to be a part of THAT conversation, not this one."

I understand that in a group situation it's not only one person talking, then another making a comment then someone else has the floor, while everybody else keeps quiet until it's their turn to talk.

Especially if you're seated next to an "It's all about me talker."

How do you politely stay involved with the conversation that's going on across from you?

*6 people, round table and restaurant (where you can't change seats) is a random situation.

Not sure what's "polite"; I only know what I tend to do in these situations.

"Hey!  What did <fill in the blank> just say?  I didn't quite catch it..."

(Side note--I'm married to and parent Asperger's people, and they tend to need the clue-by-four to pick up on social cues.  Perhaps I'm rude when I do this, but it's happened to me frequently, and it seems that people rarely seem to mind; indeed they often seem grateful for the obligation being removed from them to carry on the conversation.  I take my next cue from the individual in question, if that's any help.)

If you find out, you tell me and we'll both know  :-\

This is the reason that I get quite anxious about arriving at restaurants early when with my extended family. If you don't get power of choice on your seating you can end up having a really miserable evening. I've never been able to bring myself to say "I'm sorry, I wanted to hear what xxx was saying" when I've fallen into the clutches of a conversational vampire.

I really just think thats the nature of group conversations (the conversation across from me is always more interesting than the one I am having).  You could always wait until there is a gap in the conversation and ask PAFY what their response was later.

I've been in this situation many times. I usually then just keep looking at PAFY and trying to hear what they're saying, and continue to volley the conversation with them. I've had to completely ignore PNTM (person next to me) to do it. But if you don't make eye contact with PNTM and then ignore them, then they don't know that you're ignoring them. They think you're just listening intently to PAFY.

I can read lips fairly well and so even if PNTM is speaking louder and tapping me on the shoulder, I can still just keep speaking to PAFY. Then, PNTM doesn't realize for sure whether I'm ignoring them or just really enthralled by what PAFY is saying. If they keep tapping me, I'll look at PNTM and say politely "sorry, hang on" and then just keep talking to PAFY.

ETA: I don't intend to hurt PNTM's feelings. But it's rude of them to interrupt the conversation I was having originally with PAFY. And I don't want to be rude to PAFY either. In this case, my feelings, and PAFY's feelings are more important than appeasing the interrupter.


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