Coexisting with one-sided conversationalists.
A recent email from a friend of the podcast got me thinking about dealing with those of us who can't seem to take a verbal vacation for anything. It could be nerves or caffeine. Maybe it's self-centeredness or a combination of all of these. If you don't have one of these people in your life, you just might be one.
Picture yourself rushing out of the office to be early for your child's soccer game, or if you don't have children, maybe it's your own soccer game. Either way, your friend stops you in the hall with what seemed at the time to be an important transfer of information. Fifteen minutes later you realize that you are sweating from anxiety and really all you learned from this person who is now becoming less and less a friend is that you shouldn't lick the yogurt top unless you want to possibly cut your tongue. And while that bit of safety information could be important to you, the fact that you are now late for the soccer game has put this friend a lot closer to the Former Friend category.
This scenario happens all the time in every city and every language. And I'm not sure that people realize there are two forces at work here. The first and most obvious is that there are just some folks who will talk to anything that will stand still.
A Tactical Approach
Since there are two issues here, we should deal with both. What do you do when someone simply monopolizes your time, your meeting, your social event? The usual responses are outbursts: "I sure wish you would shut your pie hole!" or feigning interest while you back away waiting for a lull in the steady stream of consciousness so you can make a break for it.
Well, we know from Manners 101 that the yelling and the stomping are just not acceptable. But easing away while still making agreeable noises isn't really all that mannerly either. Others are important, so it goes that we should do what is in our power to make them feel important. Doing so even when we don't feel like it is the pinnacle of mannerly behavior. I'm not suggesting that you drop everything you are doing any time someone wants to share their newfound knowledge of Venezuelan Yak Cheese. I'm merely recommending a tactful exit from the situation.
Interrupt! It's Okay!
This is one of the few times I will recommend interrupting someone. Try placing a hand on the person's elbow or upper arm since that isn't usually seen as a romantic gesture. Then say, "I'm sorry. I really need to go, but I really am interested in learning more about that Yak Cheese. Would you mind if we continue this conversation another time?" Follow it with a very gracious "thank you" and hold to your word. If you are not interested in physically touching the other person, raising your hand in front of you can distract the person and allow you to request your exit.