Dear Annie: Open mouths and closed ears
Dear Annie: Please help me address an issue regarding “Laurie,” a fellow senior lady with whom I’ve been friends for 17 years. She seems to have developed a compulsion to dominate every conversation when with small groups of friends — as in 95 percent of the time. When talking about any subject (for example, work-related travel), I will ask another person in the group a question about their work-related travel. After only a one- or two-sentence response by the other person, Laurie will interrupt to bore us with the details of all the golf courses she has played over the last 40 years in her travels. She seems to have no interest in discussing anything that is not about her. Although we tolerate her extensive bragging about her children and grandchildren, we are beginning to grow tired of her lack of interest in anyone other than herself.
Annie, Laurie is an accomplished retired businesswoman. She has her own home. She has a wide circle of friends and an active social life in our adult retirement community, and she lives independently. She has extensive family members with whom she is in constant communication, via texts and phone calls. Laurie has always been very outgoing and talkative, but her friends are starting to think about excluding her in our plans because of her recent compulsion to dominate every conversation. She does not seem to be showing signs of early dementia.
Do you have any idea what might be going on with my dear friend? I love your column and would really appreciate your help. — Exasperated
Dear Exasperated: Friends are for delivering the hard truths in gentle ways. Have a private talk with Laurie. Tell her that you know she has a lot to say, but lately it’s been pushing other people out of the conversation. If you’re worried about hurting her feelings, this is the kindest thing you could do for her. It’s much better than not saying anything, leaving her to wonder why the invitations have stopped coming in.
Dear Annie: Recently, I was seated at a table with five friends, and one of them was talking about his vacation. When he was done, I started to say, “Let me tell you about our camping trip to Yosemite,” when another friend jumped right in and started talking, interrupting me midsentence. What could I say in similar situations in the future in order to get a chance to finish what I started? — Unhappy Camper
Dear Unhappy Camper: You would be amazed how many people write in with this problem. (See above.) In my experience, the best way to handle it is to be straightforward. E.g., “Wait, I wasn’t done with that story.”
But I’d like to take this opportunity to address the problem at its source and remind everyone of the virtues of listening. As the Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” Let’s all try to open our minds more than our mouths.
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