I have two acquaintances that I find myself occasionally obligated to be around due to our similar responsibilities at our church. These two acquaintances have known each other for three or four years and are good friends. I do not know either of them well.
It seems that each time I find myself with the two of them, a personal and private discussion breaks out, and they try to invite me to be a part of it. For example, they discussed in detail their husbands’ vasectomies. I was shocked into silence and kept trying to change the subject.
Another time, it was a detailed discussion of how they plan to teach their kids about the birds and the bees. That time, I was more prepared, and I told them I had to get going.
Now, maybe I’m an overly private prude, but those are things I would probably only discuss with my husband, not with friends. Even if they feel comfortable with one another, why bring it up when I’m there?
Is there a polite way to say TMI? Or “hearing about your husband’s surgery on his testicles is grossing me out?” 1013-10
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They probably have had that same conversation with the produce guy, the bank teller and the t-ball moms. Some people feel comfortable sharing their private lives with the world….I’m not one of them and you evidently aren’t either. Always nice to know there are a few of us left 🙂 Changing the subject or flat out telling them that you’d rather not be privy to their personal news is acceptable.
“Goodness, look at all the weather out there! I haven’t seen it that weathery since 1974!”
I have a similar ‘oversharing’ friend who likes to tell everyone the gory details of her monthly cycle. I’ve become an expert in changing the subject “say, did you see that brilliant documentary about Meerkats on TV the other night?” but I am approaching the point where I’m just going to have to say ‘Ewww… T.M.I!’
haha! Yeah, that’s a little TMI for someone you don’t know well. Between the two good friends, I see no problem, but you are not “there” with those people (especially about the vasectomy surgery–yuck!). Truly some people are very open and probably think that if they don’t mind, then most other people wouldn’t either.
Obviously they have missed many clues that you dropped, so being direct is going to be your best route. Simply state that you are not comfortable discussing those topics and could we please change the subject to something else?
Would “Ewwwww- TMI!” work?
If they have any kind of a sense of humour, cover your ears and sing “La-la-la-la-la!” as loudly as possible. Or bean dip them. At our house we use “Why is all the rum gone?”, spoken as much like Captain Jack Sparrow as possible.
HAHAHAHA! I heartily approve! We do the “lalalalalala” in our house, too.
These ladies seem to be polite in trying to involve you in the conversation. But the topics they choose seem to be way TMI. Maybe they are the kind comfortable with them and evidently you are not (I empathize with you, I am not either).
I agree with others – why not try to change the topic? Or, maybe the next time you meet, just start a conversation of your interest and see if they’ll pitch in.
I have a friend who often gives TMI. Once she started a personal conversation about her fiancé’ and her in a co-ed group of about 12-15 people. My boyfriend told me later that he was very happy I did not pitch in!
I ave no interest in hearing about someone’s vasectomy. That would make me quite uncomfortable, particularly if I then happened to meet either one of these two guys. I’d definitely feel that I knew way too much about them.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t shy away from listening to their plans on how to approach the “birds and bees” discussion with their children. Who knows? Maybe I’d get some new ideas!
This is not helpful at all, but I am reminded of being in a very public situation, much like church, when one young mother started telling an assembled group of other young mothers how she would not be in this fix (two toddlers, under the age of three) had she gotten her HUSBAND “fixed” in time to prevent it. She then detailed how the conversation with him had gone, and the fact that she now reigned triumphant. This was TMI on so many levels that I was flabbergasted. All I could do was leave the vicinity, which I did. Six or seven years later, I still vividly recall my shock that the wife of a local PHYSICIAN, well-known to all of us in hearing, was revealing so much.
I just have to wonder what their husbands would think about this being discussed.
I think simply stating that the subject matter is making you uncomfortable should be sufficient and polite. I also like Daisy’s advice; a little humor can prevent things from being awkward. I might start using “Why is all the rum gone?” myself.
I’m not surprised that two friends who are both parents would give each other advice on things like having the birds and bees talk. That discussion may not have been as bad as the previous one since it’d be about explaining sex to kids and not about having sex. I suppose I can see them discussing the surgery too though I don’t know if their husbands would appreciate it.
Why they felt it OK to discuss such things around you…some people don’t mind who hears what.
“la la la la” works here or just bluntly saying “Wow, TMI! I don’t need to hear about your husband’s testicles!” would work too. I have quite a few friends who have shared all sorts of private things with me over the years and I have probably been guilty of overshare myself, but being able to let the other person know they have crossed into conversational territory you are not comfortable with is a good skill to have.
I see no problem between the two friends chatting about such things, but in front of someone they don’t spend much time with is quite awkward… Reminds me of a friend of my mother’s who updates people on the status of her colon via facebook! Ewww! I think simply leaving the room is a good option, though I do love Daisy’s “lalalalala” approach. :]
I say just tell them that you don’t feel comfortable being a part of their discussions. If they’re comfortable enough with each other that they can share things like that, then that’s fine for them. But how they can know that you’re uncomfortable with it if you don’t tell them? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’m not saying they necessarily are, either. Some people are just more comfortable about sharing private information.
Though I do think that church is a strange place to talk about that sort of thing. They should be saving these conversations for their own homes, where no one could overhear them.
If you don’t say anything, they are going to assume you are okay with it, and the more time that passes (and the more times you put up with it), the harder it will get to tell them. I always have a hard time with the direct approach, and would probably take the passive-aggressive route of trying to change the subject or excusing myself, but if that doesn’t work, I think it would be acceptable to say, as politely as possible, that you don’t feel comfortable with these types of details. I’m not sure if this is an etiquette issue, or just a matter of personal boundaries (maybe a little of both).
Personally, I like to use the “pass the asparagus” line from teh dinner scene in American Beauty.
Poor things are probably just trying to have that sort of close relationship with you and making a mess of it, lol. I’d go with a simple “TMI, but thanks for ensuring that I will have that image stuck in my head all day.” or even “Sharing violation – my turn to pick the subject!” keeping it fun and playful. If they’re NOT trying to foster that sort of intimacy with you they will continue the talk and you’ll know that it’s because they’re trying to get rid of you and that’s that.
I agree that the vasectomy conversation is over the top, and I wouldn’t want to hear about it either. But I encourage all conversations between parents hoping to be better parents. The OP doesn’t mention whether she has children or not, but strategies for informing/educating children on such an important topic, to me, does not fall into the same category as discussing surgeries (unless surgery is being explained to another to know what to expect, rather than just comparing notes).
I’m guessing that they want to be better friends with you, and they think that maybe sharing intimate details (usually reserved for friends) is their way of trying to make you feel like a part of their “inner circle.”
Since becoming a mom, I’ve noticed that some (not all) women who have children tend to talk about anything and everything. I guess for some people, once you’ve been in that vulnerable of a position (giving birth) and seen so much “gross”ness, nothing grosses you out any more 🙂
I think a “Haha – TMI, you guys!” would suffice.
Step 1- What you’re doing. Lightly change the subject. When that doesn’t work after several tries, proceed to step 2.
2- Tell them flat out that such subjects make you uncomfortable. I suspect that won’t work out, but you’re obliged to try it before moving on to …
Step 3- Think of something gorier. When they bring up their husbands’ equipment, you bring up something really interesting you learned about vasectomies gone wrong that became sex change operations. Don’t worry about telling the truth. Just make sure it’s something so outrageous that someone would think it might be the truth. Site some doctors’ names or which documentary you were watching. Put plenty of blood and scientific sounding names in there. Do it naturally and with a straight face.
Same for sex ed for kids. Lightly tell them the details on oral sex that you taught to 10 year olds. Since it’s important for children to call body parts by their accurate names, refer to clitorises and orgasms a lot. If implicating yourself is too hard, tell them about the education you wish you’d had, or blame it on some other adult. Anything as long as the made-up children are way too young and the information is way too detailed.
This might not be the polite way to handle the situation, but I guarantee they’ll shut up.
I probably would have said “Perfect! Now I know what to get my DH for Christmas!” and walked away.
First thing: if people you consider your friends are constantly saying/doing things that make you uncomfortable, it might be time to think very hard about why you choose to be with these people. It sounds like a very bad fit, as friendships go.
It is also worth considering if your apparent squeamishness is what causes these “friends” to take up topics that make you feel ill at ease. Which, if true, would be another argument in favor of demoting these people from friends to acquaintances and finding other people to spend your time with.
There are strategies you could try, like shifting the conversation in a direction you’d rather go; books, movies, current events, weather are all topics you could try. If you do this regularly and with determination, and your “friends” wrestle the conversation back to topics that make you uncomfortable, that’s yet another hint that it’s time to make acquaintances of these friends and find other people who are more to your liking.
You could also try responding with a noncommital “Oh, really? How very nice!” to these people’s attempts to draw you into a conversation you don’t like. Eventually they will catch on that you aren’t going to participate.
FWIW, it seems to me that whatever points of etiquette people can offer for this situation, the bottom line comes down to this: if every interaction you have with someone is objectionable, then you really need to ask yourself why you keep trying. Both etiquette and common courtesy provide that when someone who is part of a group shows discomfort about the direction a conversation is taking, the topic will be withdrawn as a gesture of courtesy.
When people don’t realize they’re being rude, being rude in return rarely works; it shocks the person and makes them defensive.
If this is a recurring problem, the absolute first thing I would try is to say, politely, with a smile, “Could we not talk about that kind of thing, please?”
If they won’t change the subject, simply say, again, in a polite tone, with a smile, “Apparently I didn’t make myself clear. I don’t want to talk about that and I find it a very inappropriate topic. If you continue to bring up such matters when we must work together, I will have to tell [name of whoever supervises] that I cannot continue working with you.”
Too many people think the only two options are to either sit and seethe, or to say something that is, IMHO, rude and in poor taste in itself.
@The Cat Whisperer:
They’re not her friends. They’re acquaintances with whom she ends up interacting because of their volunteer work at church. I presume she’d have to give up her position in church in order to stay away from them.
Anyway… urg! I’d definitely speak up. I’d make it a it’s-not-you-it’s-me kind of thing. Something like “I’m sorry, but I’m very sensitive about private issues. I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable right now. Could you please wait until I’m not present to have this conversation?”
A couple of people here have questioned how the husbands themselves would feel upon discovering what their wives discuss in public. Maybe you could interject with “Wow! Wait’ll I see your husband again!” or “I can’t wait to meet your children!”
@Maitri: I could agree with that. It might be a mixture of the giving birth thing and not being grossed out anymore as well as, “Finally, an adult who actually understands what I’m even talking about!” If they do happen to be stay-at-home moms, I would bet they get so tired of, “Say ‘daddy'” and Dora the Explorer that talking about ANYTHING with an adult is exciting. =P
I can’t imagine talking about my husband’s vasectomy with anyone except my husband. It is in extremely poor taste and lacking in the confidentiality aspect of the husband’s person and medical issues. I would think that only my husband’s doctor and myself should be privy to this information.
I think the two ladies meant well and wanted to include the OP, but are a little bit naive. Most people don’t discuss such things with casual acquaintances. The B&B discussions with children would not bother me because they are probably just suggestions as to how to handle the questions that children ask.
Aha.. you’re making me feel bad. I’m also one of those people that feels comfortable sharing everything with everyone.
HOWEVER, if someone is uncomfortable, which I can sense really easily, I would change the subject.
Don’t be shy about how you feel. Tell them you’re uncomfortable with discussing such things.
I agree with Linnie, don’t be shy about the way that you feel. I’m sure Linnie knows when
sorry hit the wrong button there! Meant to Say:
I’m sure Linnie knows when not to cross a line and would rather be told if she was making someone feel uncomfortable the 0nly people I tell imtimate things are close firends if I need advice.
This reminds me of my temp days. I was all of twenty and stuck in a cubicle with three other women, one of whom was very pregnant and one who had a toddler. Naturally, they talked about childbirth in all it’s grossness (yeah, it’s gross, people. Naturally gross.) Every. Damn. Day. And if I showed any discomfort at this disgusting conversation? Well, I’m just some stupid kid. What do I know?