I was at lunch with a group of co-workers when someone began broadcasting all about his wife’s aunt. She was not an extraordinary person by any measure. She hadn’t done anything spectacular other than being a bit on the nosy side. The more I heard, the less I understood why he was talking about her to people like me, who had never met his wife, let alone his wife’s aunt. We ended hearing to his monologue for ten or fifteen minutes -though it felt like eternity- on all details of what she does and what she doesn’t.
Nobody reacted, nobody asked a question, everyone continued eating while staring at the food in front of them. Well, if that is not a clear indication of “I couldn’t care less”, what is?
I was at someone’s place for one and a half day, when he talked nonstop about his parents. There was nothing unusual, as in noteworthy, about them. They were two aged people living an ordinary life. By the end of my stay, I knew their preferences, their most trivial likes and dislikes (pillows, cut of bread, maps, you name it). I tried changing the subject a few times, once or twice I unconsciously rose and left the table, I never asked one single question, but to no avail. My knowledge of the parents became sufficient to write a book (a life study) on them except that I wasn’t interested, and I was sure that nobody else would be. Needless to say, I never went back for a visit.
Why is it that some people never stop to think whether the subject of their monologues is of any interest to the listener? I am puzzled at what to do about people talking nonstop about their teapot (yes, really), the squirrel on their cousin’s neighbour’s side of the fence, the number of flowers on an outfit they owned twenty years ago, and the old subject of their genius children, to name a few. In some cases, I guess there is no solution but to walk away (as I did with my friend), but quite often that is not an option.
How do you communicate to the megalomaniacs, who think whatever crosses their minds has to be shared at the highest volume to everyone around them, that nobody is interested, or at least, you are not interested? Remember, I live in Canada, where the national moto on decorum is, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” And if you do, what are the chances of their hearing you? Basically, is there a way to stop being captive audience without being rude? Do share.