Tell Me About It: In search of ways to stop the family over-talker

Published September 13 2018

Q: During extended family get-togethers with my side of the family, there is one person who does 95 percent of the talking. When I ask someone else in the room a question about their lives, this person always jumps in and takes over the conversation again. This talker also never inquires about what might be new or important in the lives of her close relatives in the room.

My husband and kids really have a hard time being around the talker. We have reduced our visits with this person to only when relatives are visiting.

Is there any way to encourage this person to let others talk?

Frustrated

A: There are always ways. The question is, are you willing to use them?

Thereís refereeing: "Thatís interesting, Chatty ó hold that thought. Right now [someone else] is answering a question about her life."

There are gimmicks: "Letís go around the table and have each person give an update."

These are gentle, and fair ó to a talker perhaps most of all, since having people avoid Chatty seems to be the alternative. That isolates him or her, of course, which leads to loneliness, which probably started the over-talking in the first place, which then will only get worse. A firmer hand might be the softest touch.

Facing boyfriendís ex may shed light on his feelings

Q: My boyfriendís ex-girlfriend, "Amy," is dating one of his close friends. I can tell my boyfriend is uncomfortable every time his friend and Amy are mentioned.

Whenever a friend asks my boyfriend how he feels about them, he states heís happiest heís ever been and he might care if it werenít for our relationship. I think his response is mostly true, yet an overstatement. For some reason, the overstatement bothers me.

Also, we are invited to a lot of the same events. Iíve never met Amy and Iím hesitant to attend gatherings she is invited to.

How can I gracefully attend the same parties, dinners, etc., as Amy?

Awkwardly Caught in the Middle

A: Just go.

More important: Your sniffing out hyperbole in your boyfriendís professions of joy is the interesting part of your question. Pushing past your fear of Amy-ful events is also the first step toward seeing whether your boyfriend is in fact protesting too much. Thereís nothing like having the ex in the same room to tell you whether he chose you because youíre you, or chose you because Amy was no longer an option.

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