Etiquette School is in session! > "Have you tried the bean dip?"

When the person won't take the hint...

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I am, I must admit, a bit of a fan of 'bean dip'. I have trouble being direct and firm, so I often come out with these perky offerings to distract people and change the subject. It usually works, but what do you do when the offender just keeps on going back to it? There's only so many times you can change the subject.

For instance: my mother at a family Christmas. She was having (admittedly quite bad) problems with some people she knew. But at Christmas dinner (at my cousin's) one year, she just wouldn't shut up about it. One by one my relatives fell silent while she ranted on and on and on. After about ten minutes, I jumped in asked about one of my cousin's (lovely) desserts and everyone leaped on the subject like seagulls on a chip. I was really proud of myself, actually, seeing all those relieved faces and hearing everyone sound appropriately cheery again.  :D But after a few minutes, my mother couldn't handle it any longer, and she  started AGAIN, in a REALLY loud voice. This time she shot me a glare - don't interrupt me! - and kept talking loudly and quickly so nobody could get a word in. This time everyone just went silent and let her finish ranting. It took about twenty minutes with everyone dead quiet and looking at their plates.

At this point, would it have been appropriate for me (I was about 24 at the time) to be blunt and say 'That's enough about that subject, please, its' Christmas!' I'd tried polite, and she'd not taken the hint, so would it then be OK for me to be, well, not polite?

Well, you tried to be polite and save her some embarrassment. From the glare she shot you, it seems that she's very much aware that you tried to shut her up. If she then refused to take the hint, it would probably be better to ask her more directly to change the subject, for the sake of the other guests.

However, you can still be polite and yet be firm. As I see it, there's nothing impolite about "Mother, I know you're frustrated, but could we please change the subject to something more light-hearted, it's Christmas after all?" In fact, it would be extremely rude of her to refuse a polite request like that. However, if she keeps on ranting despite the fact that no one seems interested, I am not sure if it would be beyond her to ignore your request any way.  ::)

OH man, I hate that. One family member of mine likes to use Christmas dinner to focus on the doom and gloom of world events. While I think these are important topics for discussion, it gets a bit gloomy at Christmas and I'd rather use that time for cheer and joy.

My MIL is coming for Thanksgiving this Sunday. I don't think there's enough bean dip in the world.
I plan on keeping my comments to "oh? really? whaddayaknow? well."  Anything I comment beyond that goes directly to the family grapevine.
Maybe I really will make bean dip.  What is bean dip anyway?

CatFanatic, I think in your situation CyberKat gave a good suggestion.  If she still didnt comply, I think then only way to get it across to her that nobody wants to listen to her is to get rid of her captive audience. 

For example, I wouldnt think it rude to get up (even if you have to slightly interrupt her) and say something to the effect of "Cousin/Aunt/someone, would you care to join me in the living room for another cup of coffee (or for a little walk for some fresh air)?" 

This accomplishes several things - sets you up as an individual AND an adult (who doesnt have to be subjected to conversations she doesnt want to be, and puts you on the high ground), it breaks up the tension/mood, and it gives others a cue to follow (which they gladly will!), and it gets you out of hearing her stories.  It also sends a STRONG message to her that people dont want to hear her ranting - to the extreme that they are willing to physically remove themselves from her presence in order to not hear her.  That's a strong message to send someone. 

Good luck.


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