AUNT JOSEPHINE Too much talk­ing.

HAV­ING A CON­VER­SA­TION IS A TWO-WAY STREET, BUT SOME PEO­PLE CAN MAKE IT SEEM VERY ONE-SIDED. WHEN IS THE TIME TO (TRY AND) SAY SOME­THING?

In the Moment - - Contents -

QDear Aunt Josephine,

My brother-in-law is a nice guy but he’s al­ways loved the sound of his own voice and it’s get­ting worse. He talks at me, rather than to me, and the con­ver­sa­tion al­ways feels one-sided. I’ve started to avoid him, which is a shame be­cause we’ve al­ways got on well in the past. My hus­band is very easy-go­ing and says to ig­nore him, and the rest of the fam­ily don’t seem to say any­thing about it (they prob­a­bly don’t get the chance!). We’re go­ing to be spend­ing Christ­mas with them all and I can al­ready feel my­self get­ting wound up. How can I talk to my brother-in-law with­out say­ing some­thing rude and walk­ing o ?

Tired Of Be­ing Talked At, Chelms­ford

ADear Tired of Be­ing Talked At,

That would cer­tainly be a di­rect way of deal­ing with the sit­u­a­tion! I com­pletely un­der­stand the ris­ing ir­ri­ta­tion and frus­tra­tion of be­ing stuck in front of some­one who is stuck on trans­mit. But you and your brother-in-law are also part of the same fam­ily. As tempt­ing as it is to shout, “Will you just put a sock in it?”, and storm o , it prob­a­bly wouldn’t go down that well with him or other mem­bers of your fam­ily, so try mak­ing that a last re­sort.

Let’s look at your other op­tions rst. When your broth­erin-law gets into full ow you could hold your hand up and say: “If I could just in­ter­rupt you to say...”, or some­thing sim­i­lar. Some­times we can set­tle into an un­con­scious hi­er­ar­chy and let oth­ers mo­nop­o­lise the con­ver­sa­tion, so it would be good to look at your own part in this. You could also say some­thing like: “Tom! [insert his name here] I’ve just been [insert some­thing here] and I’ve got some re­ally in­ter­est­ing things I’d like to dis­cuss with you,” and lead the con­ver­sa­tion from there. An­other way is to wait for a nat­u­ral pause (ev­ery­one has to breathe) and say some­thing like: “I’ve got two points I’d like to make,” so he knows that you have things that you want to say.

When we’re feel­ing con­ver­sa­tion­ally cor­nered, we can some­times end up lash­ing out in a gen­er­alised way (“You al­ways talk over me!”), which can take the other per­son by sur­prise or get their hack­les up. In­stead, it’s best to catch them in the act and just state the facts. You could say, good­hu­mouredly: “You’ve been talk­ing for the past ten min­utes and I haven’t said any­thing yet”. By re­spond­ing (rather than re­act­ing) in a ra­tio­nal man­ner, the other per­son will also re­spond much bet­ter, and feel less de­fen­sive.

The other ap­proach is non-ver­bal. You could send out de­lib­er­ate cues that you’re not in­ter­ested or want to get away, for ex­am­ple look­ing to­wards the door, to en­cour­age him to wind down the mono­logue. The down­side is that this can ac­tu­ally pro­long a con­ver­sa­tion, mak­ing the other per­son talk even more to try and hold your at­ten­tion, and it might (un­fairly) come across as be­ing rude.

When we’re be­ing talked over our nat­u­ral re­ac­tion can be to in­ter­rupt. But an­other more pow­er­ful ap­proach is to ac­tively take our­selves out of the con­ver­sa­tion. Still be there phys­i­cally, but stop con­tribut­ing both ver­bally and non-ver­bally. Even the most self-un­aware of con­ver­sa­tion hog­gers will even­tu­ally grind to a halt when they are met by noth­ing, leav­ing you space to have your say.

I once read a piece of ad­vice about a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion and how end­ing a con­ver­sa­tion doesn’t have to mean end­ing a friend­ship. The same can be ap­plied here. If you stop the cur­rent mode of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween you and your brother-in-law, he will have to adapt to some­thing more be tting for both of you. We can’t make some­one stop talk­ing at us, but it is in our con­trol how we choose to en­gage with it.

Life coach & au­thor, Josephine Carnegie holds a certi cate in holis­tic coun­selling but is best known for giv­ing good ad­vice. Ask Aunt Josephine a ques­tion by send­ing an email to her (hello@aunt josephine.co.uk). Un­for­tu­nately, Aunt Josephine can’t en­ter into per­sonal cor­re­spon­dence.

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