Conversation Stopper

4 Jun

Dear LetterBalm: I have something that is more of an annoyance than a problem, but it really bothers me. Whenever I talk about something that happened to me or concerns me, the other person jumps in with “Oh, yes. That happened to me.” Then, they proceed to take over the conversation and go on at length about their experience or their opinion. It’s as though they’re trying to top what I’m saying, and it infuriates me. I give up trying to bring the conversation back to what I was saying in the first place. Is there something I can say to politely but firmly get the conversation back on track?

–Stop Talking

Ms. L.B. commiserates. This is one of her pet peeves, too. This rude habit has proliferated as life has sped up – people aren’t really listening, and multitasking has become the norm. Wouldn’t it be great if you could hold up a school-crossing-guard “STOP” paddle as soon as the interrupter gets going? You need to gently shift the focus back onto you. (And make sure your own listening credentials are impeccable, by the way.) This strategy won’t always work – the urge to trumpet one’s real or imagined experiences and views is difficult to tame. Smile, take a deep breath and sweetly interrupt:

I can’t wait to hear everything you have to say. But for now, please, can we turn back to what I was saying? I really want you to listen to my story/views/experience first – it’s important. Your opinion means a lot to me, but you can’t give it until I finish giving you the full story, OK? So, where was I? Oh, yes …

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