Style and Substance: In the heat of the argument

Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer

Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer

Dear style & substance:

I have a few friends that take up the whole conversation when we go out together, when I talk with them on the phone, or am out running errands. Can you help me find some way to shut this down in the early stages, in a very nice way of course, they are my friends and I do care about their lives! Sometimes though, I wonder if that feeling is shared and I would like somebody to ask me how I am?

We like to call these people “monologuers” versus the real conversationalists, “dialoguers”. There are different types of monologuers…some talk over others so one can’t get a word in edgewise while with others, you could actually set the phone down on the counter and walk away and they would never know the difference! They don’t seem to read body language and are quite oblivious to the “signals” that we are giving. With this in mind, you can take the lead and make your “signals” stronger.

So, what to do? Most listeners (like you) are quite respectful and caring, but friendships are all about sharing and relating from both sides. If a dialogue is considered to be an exchange of ideas and opinions, then how do you make this happen? With these talkers, we generally get into the robot mode of nodding, “ummmhmming”and ending it after 30 minutes, by saying that “I need to run”. While this seems to be the nicest response, it does not at all modify the behavior. It actually is a form of positive reinforcement.

Here are some of our ideas, to get you started and acting on this:

• Adding surprising comments that unexpectedly halt a monologue are something with which you can experiment. EXAMPLES: “ Sorry to interrupt but I heard the most interesting story today and immediately thought of you.” (then tell a short story) Another way to halt a monologue is to ask a question of the speaker. Remember, you are ultimately trying to retrain this person into listening to you and engaging in your life, as they have that expectation of you.

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