Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"Overbearing Conversationalist" Needs To Learn How To Take Turns Talking

Dear Tazi:

I have a good friend who is a very dear woman, but has one major flaw that drives people away from her: she is an incessant talker who always manages to turn the conversation back to her. She was recently bemoaning her lack of friends - right after I mentioned I was getting together for lunch with some ladies we both know - so I felt obligated to bring "Pam" along with me.

When we arrived at the restaurant, one of my friends was on crutches. She had been in a car accident a few weeks prior and had done some muscle damage. Pam immediately expressed concern for the woman, but as soon as she said the words "car accident" Pam hijacked the conversation to talk about a car accident she had been in 12 years ago and how she still feels pain when the weather is bad. When the conversation turned to a different subject, Pam again took it over and made it all about her.

Just when a member of our party was ready to tell Pam off, our friend on crutches needed to use the ladies room and Pam offered to assist her by carrying the woman's purse, which showed the side of Pam that I adore - selfless and giving. At the end of lunch, Pam thanked us all for having her and even paid our bar tab as her way of showing her gratitude.

Since that day, Pam has been trying to "friend" these other women on Facebook and make plans to get together in person. Although my friends have accepted her friend requests, they are reluctant to spend time with her in person because she is such an "overbearing conversationalist", as one of my group politely put it. I would hate to see Pam excluded from our group get-togethers, because she is desperately in search of more friends, but at the same time I do not want to hurt her by telling her point-blank why the others seek to exclude her. Short of sneaking out behind Pam's back is there any way I can find a comfortable solution that would please everyone and hurt no one?

Somewhere Between A Rock And A Hard Place

Dear Somewhere Between A Rock And A Hard Place:

My first thought was that Pam might have been trying to fit in with your group when she prattled on, but then I remembered that she is acquainted with the other women, as well. Since she regularly monopolizes the conversation, I doubt it is just nerves that prompt such rudeness, so I am going to guess that Pam does not realize what she is doing. In her attempt to empathize with others she is steamrolling over them.

Although it will not be easy to tell Pam about her conversational flaws, it can be done in a gentle manner that will spare her feelings. The next time Pam hijacks the conversation, hold up your hand in a "stop" motion and gently mention that you need to say something. Then, tell Pam that she may not realize it, but cutting people off mid sentence or mid-thought is considered by many to be rude, and may be the reason she has such difficulty cultivating the friendships she seeks. Let her know that you enjoy listening to her, but that it comes at the expense of losing your turn in a two-way conversation.

Pam will most likely be flustered at this point, so try your best to comfort her, letting her know that you enjoy her company just the same and that she is a sweet and loving person, but that she needs to be aware of how she treats others in conversation. If she seeks to improve upon this problem, offer to help her through regular conversations. If, on the other hand, Pam is offended, reveal to her that you only have her best interests at heart. Since Pam has few friends to begin with and is seeking more, I doubt she will write you off her list.

Once Pam has shown that she is making a conscious effort to be considerate of those she is conversing with, speak to your luncheon group about giving Pam a second chance, mentioning that she is aware of her tendency to be an "overbearing conversationalist" and is working on changing. If they refuse to offer a second chance, perhaps you should give a second glance to the type of people you have befriended.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with a Bachelors of Arts in Communications. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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