Author Topic: The art of polite group conversation  (Read 2977 times)

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jpcher

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The art of polite group conversation
« on: November 23, 2012, 08:45:06 PM »
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.

JennJenn68

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2012, 09:41:39 PM »
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.)


Iris

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2012, 09:52:23 PM »
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.
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MsMarjorie

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2012, 10:12:21 PM »
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.

Danika

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2012, 10:17:38 PM »
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.
« Last Edit: November 23, 2012, 10:19:16 PM by Danika »

Deetee

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2012, 11:30:01 PM »
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). 

And then at weddings, it always seems to be table on the other side of the room that is laughing and having animated conservations about skydiving in a Energiser bunny custom with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (or something as judged from the sign language) while you are are trying to discuss the different qualities of compost with the slightly deaf great uncle whose name you've forgotten.

But then you realise that you don't notice other people when your conversation is interesting.

Raintree

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2012, 01:54:11 AM »
"Sorry, one sec, I just wanted to hear what Susie was saying about dogs..."

I don't know if that's polite, but if I was listening to Susie originally then it was PNTM that interrupted.

I'mnotinsane

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2012, 08:38:40 AM »
"Sorry, one sec, I just wanted to hear what Susie was saying about dogs..."

I don't know if that's polite, but if I was listening to Susie originally then it was PNTM that interrupted.
[/quote

While this feels rude it is perfectly polite. 

TootsNYC

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2012, 08:21:29 PM »
"Sorry, one sec, I just wanted to hear what Susie was saying about dogs..."

I don't know if that's polite, but if I was listening to Susie originally then it was PNTM that interrupted.

this is what I was thinking. Just make a comment that indicates that you were in on the other conversation.

Raintree

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2012, 04:02:03 AM »
I was thinking about this thread and realizing it seems to happen to me a lot. I know a couple of people in my social circle who are perfectly nice people, but I avoid sitting next to them in situations like this, because once they've turned to talk to me, they talk a mile a minute and it becomes next to impossible to break it off and join another conversation. It's normal for larger groups to break off into several sub-groups having conversations, but I'm talking about the people who talk a mile a minute about nothing and monopolize you for extended periods of time, when you kind of want to mingle with everyone present.

Deetee

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2012, 02:01:44 PM »
Random trick I have learned to break off a conversation is to interupt yourself.

It works quite well. You make a comment and keep talking and then partway through you cut yourself off and then excuse yourself to get punch/ask someone else what they think/say goodbye etc....

It doesn't feel as rude to interupt your conversation and gets you what you want.

(I actually read this as way to get off the phone is to hang up while you are talking but I have found that simply saying "Oh I have to run" while talking works quite well.)

Raintree

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2012, 03:52:45 AM »
Random trick I have learned to break off a conversation is to interupt yourself.

It works quite well. You make a comment and keep talking and then partway through you cut yourself off and then excuse yourself to get punch/ask someone else what they think/say goodbye etc....

It doesn't feel as rude to interupt your conversation and gets you what you want.

(I actually read this as way to get off the phone is to hang up while you are talking but I have found that simply saying "Oh I have to run" while talking works quite well.)

Interesting angle. Maybe I'll try it.

lowspark

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #12 on: November 27, 2012, 12:11:00 PM »
"Sorry, one sec, I just wanted to hear what Susie was saying about dogs..."

I don't know if that's polite, but if I was listening to Susie originally then it was PNTM that interrupted.

Yup, that's pretty much what I do. It does happen that side conversations get started. Heck, I might even be the one who started one. But then if the original conversation is continuing across the table and I want to join in again, I don't see anything wrong with saying so. It's just a natural dynamic of a large group situation.

Mikayla

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Re: The art of polite group conversation
« Reply #13 on: November 27, 2012, 03:21:34 PM »
I was thinking about this thread and realizing it seems to happen to me a lot. I know a couple of people in my social circle who are perfectly nice people, but I avoid sitting next to them in situations like this, because once they've turned to talk to me, they talk a mile a minute and it becomes next to impossible to break it off and join another conversation. It's normal for larger groups to break off into several sub-groups having conversations, but I'm talking about the people who talk a mile a minute about nothing and monopolize you for extended periods of time, when you kind of want to mingle with everyone present.

Same here.  And, for me anyway, the annoyance factor is that, while I stay polite, there's no doubt I'm also sending social cues.  For example, they might stop to take a breath and I'll toss out the flyaway version of "That's interesting..." and then immediately try to join the convo that interests me.

And then, I find myself as the person who won't shut up because I know the one sitting next to me is just waiting for that first pause to engage me in the convo that never ends.

I'm really having trouble lately with people who don't pick up on the obvious.