Author Topic: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation  (Read 4905 times)

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cicero

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #15 on: January 01, 2013, 08:05:12 AM »
This person is coming to stay with us for a few days.  I will go insane if she talks constantly that whole time.  How can I tell her that silence would be golden without offending her?

Tell her.

Figure out what works for you and what doesn't and tell her the parameters - "SIL, you know i love you and love having you, but i really need my quiet time in the morning and I need an hour to unwind when i get home from work. Otherwise i turn into a grumpy goat. So I'm going to take my coffee into my room for an hour - after that I'm all yours" or whatever works for you.

THEN if she starts to talk to you, gently guide her back to the guidelines "SIL, sorry, i'm still unwinding. Why don't you get started on the salad, and I'll be with you in about 20 minutes?" and leave the room.

just as it's hard for her to *not* talk and you are asking her to make an effort, you'll have to make some kind of effort to be a bit more social. so it's give a little/take a little so that the visit will be ok for all.

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Thipu1

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2013, 10:02:34 AM »
MIL is like this.  There must never be silence while everyone is awake.  If there isn't conversation, she will hum or sing.  What she says isn't usually annoying but the constant undertone is.

SIL thinks it's because MIL's mother died when the child was young.  MIL's father then married again to a woman who already had several children.  The couple then had children of their own.  There was a total of nine children in the house as well as servants so silence in that household was almost unknown. 

When we're all together it isn't so bad.  She can direct her attention to any one of about 20 people.  We call this the MDF for 'Mom Dilution Factor'.  When it's only the two of us staying with her, we have to be more direct. 

'Mom, we love you but why are we hearing about how the downstairs neighbor's grandchild is about to win a Nobel Prize in Physics.  May we have a little quiet, please?'

It usually works...for about ten minutes. 




CrazyDaffodilLady

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2013, 10:35:12 AM »
It would be nice if there were a magic button we could push to shut these people up once in a while.  I suppose the only way is "the conversation", but that's really hard to do, and most of the compulsive talkers I've known are overly sensitive to criticism. 

I'm currently dealing with an acquaintance who talks incessantly.  We will never be friends because of this, and I'll probably phase her out of my life eventually.  Sometimes when she pauses for a breath, I try to tell her something important, and she just bulldozes right over me.  As a result, I know the minute details of her life and of her extended family, neighbors, church members, etc.  She knows very little about me. 

These people talk at you, rather than to you.  If it were just a matter of them being uncomfortable with stillness, they could ask questions and get a conversation going. 

I have no advice, but a lot of sympathy.

It takes two people to play tug of war. If you don't want to play, don't pick up the rope.

Onyx_TKD

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #18 on: January 01, 2013, 11:03:15 AM »
I guess what I'd do is to jump on the introvert/extrovert thing.  Tell her gently that, while you suspect that she's an extrovert, the rest of the family are introverts.  Which means that having to keep up with a conversation is exhausting, and sometimes they need some quiet time to recharge.  And for them, quiet times aren't awkward or full of "we don't know what to say to each other," they're just moments of relaxation and peace.  You might also mention that the others aren't very good at jumping into conversations.  That often, by the time they think of something to say, "people who are more extroverted" (herself, really, and we're using "extroverted" here in the wrong way to mean "incessant talker," but I think it's kinder) have moved on with the conversation and the quieter people can never manage to say what they want.  That maybe she could try leaving longer pauses sometimes, and waiting to see if anybody else wants to comment.  Or she could ask questions here or there, to try to give others a way into the conversation.  If you approach it as, "You're really good at conversation, but some of us have trouble jumping into the conversation--can you help them join in?" then she might see it as helping the quieter ones, rather than the normal ones telling her, as an excessive talker, to hush.

May I suggest "reserved" versus "outgoing" as alternative descriptors? I think "outgoing" comes closer to describing the behavior, and it's viewed pretty positively in our culture (as opposed to more specific descriptors like "chatterbox"  ;)). Using introvert/extrovert would probably get the point across and may be accurate for the people involved in this situation, but my understanding is that they really describe underlying personality/psychology, not behavior. I.e., extroverts can be shy and quiet, and introverts can be outgoing chatterboxes; it's just that the former are energized by being around people, while the latter are energized by time alone.

Good luck, OP. That's going to be a difficult conversation, but if it works, it sounds like it will make everyone a lot happier. I can't imagine your outgoing SIL wants to carry on the conversation all by herself, but the longer the more reserved folks sit there desperate for a moment of sweet silence, the less likely they're going to want to engage.

perpetua

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #19 on: January 01, 2013, 11:48:33 AM »
I'm not sure this is a case of monopolising the conversation as much as it is being uncomfortable with silence and trying to fill the gaps, so I'm not sure what you can do about that, because comfort on a visit should work both ways. I wouldn't call myself an extrovert, but I'm very uncomfortable with long silences. They feel so terribly awkward, as if we don't have anything to say to each other. Surely the point of a visit is to socialise; if I'd wanted to not talk to anyone, I could stay home alone and do that for free.

For general discussion, I'm curious in situations like this why the introvert or non-conversationalist's preference always seems to take priority. If the extrovert is being rude by talking too much and making the introvert uncomfortable, can't the same also be said the other way round - that it's somewhat rude of the introvert to make the extrovert uncomfortable by not participating more in conversation? Perhaps that's a topic for another thread though.

VorFemme

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #20 on: January 01, 2013, 11:59:58 AM »
As an extrovert and a talker (I come from a long line of preachers and school teachers - it's genetic - I can stand up and talk for twenty minutes, no problem) - I learned to take hand work (embroidery, knitting, or something) with me.  I can be quiet, but I have to have my attention "engaged" in something.  And my introverted MIL liked to make quilts, so we'd both work on our latest project without any problems - as long as we both had some needlework in hand!

Incessant talkers of the world - grab a needle!  Or a pair of them (knitting)!  Or a hook (crochet hook or start making fishing lures)!
Let sleeping dragons be.......morning breath......need I say more?

Figgie

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #21 on: January 01, 2013, 12:12:10 PM »
My sister-in-law sounds very similar, so you have my sympathies.  Everyone including her own spouse has talked to her about it and it hasn't made a lick of difference.  So, after whichever introvert she has taken hostage has had enough, they excuse themselves and take a break. 

Which has led to the odd scenario of after she has talked everyone half to death, she wanders around and finds us introverts watching tv, reading, listening to music or just sitting looking out the window.  If she starts talking at us again, she gets told that we are recharging and that when we have gotten some more energy, we will then come and find her. 

Which we do.  Just as she is not capable of not talking continuously, we aren't capable of listening for multiple hours on end.  It isn't her fault and it isn't our fault.  So, all we can do is the best we can and when we reach the end of our ability to listen, we disengage and leave the room.

With much younger talkers, I've had a bit of success in discussing with them the difference in communication styles and asking them to wait at least 20 seconds during a lull in the conversation before jumping in. 

Onyx_TKD

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #22 on: January 01, 2013, 12:56:23 PM »
I'm not sure this is a case of monopolising the conversation as much as it is being uncomfortable with silence and trying to fill the gaps, so I'm not sure what you can do about that, because comfort on a visit should work both ways. I wouldn't call myself an extrovert, but I'm very uncomfortable with long silences. They feel so terribly awkward, as if we don't have anything to say to each other. Surely the point of a visit is to socialise; if I'd wanted to not talk to anyone, I could stay home alone and do that for free.

For general discussion, I'm curious in situations like this why the introvert or non-conversationalist's preference always seems to take priority. If the extrovert is being rude by talking too much and making the introvert uncomfortable, can't the same also be said the other way round - that it's somewhat rude of the introvert to make the extrovert uncomfortable by not participating more in conversation? Perhaps that's a topic for another thread though.

The OP posted:
She is an extrovert in a room full of introverts, all family.  We would like there to be silence occasionally, where someone else could maybe come in and say something.  Instead if you want to talk about something you have to jump in when she's taking a breath.  And then she'll find some way to relate what you are talking about back to her, and then go on about it, repeating herself again!  It's like she's scared of silence or something.
In the situations described by the OP, it sounds like the majority of the people involved believe in waiting until the current speaker has finished before taking the floor, and they are expecting the cue of a pause longer than taking a breath. I.e., they wait for an indication that they will not be interrupting if they start speaking. It sounds like this conversational style works for everyone in the family except SIL. Also, it sounds like others have tried to compromise with SIL's style by occasionally jumping in when SIL takes a breath, otherwise they wouldn't know that she'll relate the comment back into what she was talking about and keep going. If this is true, the OP's situation is not about the reserved style taking precedence over the talkative style. Instead, it's about the minority style needing to adapt to mesh with the majority style.

Also, it has not been my experience that a reserved conversational style "always" takes precedence over a more talkative, outgoing style. In fact, IME our culture has a lot of pressure/emphasis on getting out and meeting people (favors outgoing, talkative style over reserved), networking with strangers at events (again, favors talkative, outgoing style over reserved), attending social events for work teams/clubs/etc. one is associated with (favors extroverts over introverts and outgoing people over reserved ones).

Part of the trouble in dealing with clashing talkative vs. reserved styles is that the talkative style tends to easily overwhelm the other without meaning to. If Person A is uncomfortable with silences and Person B is uncomfortable interrupting before the other person has indicated they're finished, then Person B will never talk, even though both styles are perfectly valid and trying to be polite. This doesn't mean that Person B's preference automatically take precedence, but it does mean Person A must back off before any equal compromise can be reached. Person B cannot create pauses, so their only options are to adopt Person A's style (not a compromise, and leaves B uncomfortable) or stop participating and let A monologue to avoid silence (which defeats the purpose of a conversation). Whereas if Person A is willing to adapt a little by leaving some pauses, then B will have a chance to comfortably step in and hold up their end of the conversation. If A leaves some pauses and B makes an effort not to let the silences drag on too long (even if B would be comfortable with that), then voila! We have compromise and conversation! But B can't make that happen without A's cooperation.

As you said, the point of a visit is to socialize. Neither complete silence nor monologues fulfill that need. Just like you could stay home if you wanted silence, you could stay home and turn on the TV or monologue to the wall if you just wanted a lack of silence. That's why both parties need to adapt.

kckgirl

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #23 on: January 01, 2013, 01:12:01 PM »
I once saw a television show about people with different compulsive behaviors. One woman talked all the time to fill the silence. She was engaged to be married, but her fiance eventually left her because of the nonstop talking. I believe she was working with a specialist who helps people with compulsive behavior that disrupts their lives.

My grandfather's sister-in-law talked and talked and talked. Fortunately I was a kid so I could get away from her by going out to play. You certainly couldn't have a conversation with her because you couldn't get a word in. She'd talk right over you if you tried.


In the case of the OP, I think I'd walk way if I absolutely couldn't stand it, but I still wouldn't like doing it. Mostly, I'd suffer in silence and promise myself not invite her anywhere.
Maryland

Dora

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #24 on: January 01, 2013, 01:38:48 PM »
Sounds to me that she honestly might not know that there is a style difference.  If an American goes to Japan or Germany, they might not notice that some of their habits and customs are different.  She might come from a family that never allows moments of silence.  Perhaps if you kindly tell her that the introverts prefer some moments of silence then she will look for those moments and adjust accordingly to the people around her.

Shalamar

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #25 on: January 01, 2013, 03:13:55 PM »
This reminds me of my co-worker.  She talks so much, I often wonder how she gets any work done.   I once overheard her give a 30-minute soliloquy about how she prefers salsa over guacamole.   ???

Minmom3

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #26 on: January 01, 2013, 03:39:06 PM »
What we did when DD#2 was small was to tell her that our ears needed a rest, and she HAD to hush for a few minutes.  When it got really bad, we'd tell her to not talk until 'X o'clock', and hold her to it.  She did not, as a small child, understand how exhausting it was to be battered non-stop by her talking, questioning and jabbering.  We had to do that for several years, until she got old enough to really internalize that silence was not bad, and other people sometimes wanted a chance to speak.

What I have done, occasionally, in the past, is a) tell people that other people would like to talk too, and not being given the chance. b) ASK them if they ever give other people a chance to talk.  c) Ask if they don't care if other people want to talk, and they're getting irritated because you talk right over them?  This only comes after more subtle hints and gentle requests are ignored to the point that people are leaving, annoyed, at the attention hog.  If gentle hints work, there's no need to progress on to the blunt.  Sadly, sometimes you have to break out the blunt and nearly rude statements and questions.  Nobody's mouth should be allowed to hold a group hostage...   ::)
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EMuir

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Re: How to tell someone to stop monopolizing conversation
« Reply #27 on: January 01, 2013, 04:47:49 PM »
OP here. I really appreciate all the comments!

Interestingly, my parents came back for New Year's, my sister was celebrating with others. It was very nice.  Sometimes we all companionably sat and either read or played around on various electronic devices, sometimes we talked (turned out that Mom had a lot to say, and interesting stuff too).  It was far nicer. 

Good news as well, sis is going to be busy a lot of the time she's here.  She wanted to stay for another day because her work extended her stay here, but I told her that wouldn't be possible.  I know work will pay for a hotel for her. I just so much need a weekend to relax after the holidays, and if she stayed over Friday night she might end up not leaving until after supper Saturday.

I love her, but mostly over there, if you know what I mean? :)