It's an incredible party: fascinating guests, amazing food, open bar. Laughter erupts from almost every corner of the room. Almost every corner. In...
It’s an incredible party: fascinating guests, amazing food, open bar.
Laughter erupts from almost every corner of the room. Almost every corner.
In one, someone who seemed like a nice-enough guest suddenly has boxed you in and floored the engine on the motormouth. Suddenly you’re getting an earful about this guy’s goiter-removal surgery or his vacation to Buffalo, N.Y., or his niece’s brilliant performance as tree moss in the school play.
As you nod your head and pretend to listen, you feel a strong urge to slice your wrists with your swizzle stick.
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It’s torture, and it’s way too common. Party boors are everywhere, and it’s about time their victims found a polite and tactful way to say, “Shut up.”
OK, so how?
Stop faking it
Often it is we, not the blabbers, who are to blame. We are simply too nice.
“We’ve been ingrained by our parents and schools: Be polite, be a good listener, be courteous,” says Bill Lampton, a communication expert based near Atlanta. “We go overboard on that and forget that we also have a right to control our own time.”
By being polite, we actually encourage party boors, says Lampton.
“Many of them probably think they are being very charming. … They’re totally unaware that instead of winning friends and influencing people, they are driving people away.”
Put on the red light
A truly riveted listener will nod, lean in and respond with an “uh-huh.”
Problem is, we often use these conversation “green lights” on the blowhards.
“Green lights say, ‘Keep going, keep going, keep going,’ ” says Loren Ekroth, a communication specialist in Las Vegas. “Turn on the yellow and red lights.”
The yellows: Make a poker face, fidget, stifle a yawn.
The reds: Check your watch, look away, roll your eyes.
Connect, touch, shift
Anticipate a natural transition in the conversation: a punch line, an exclamation point, the end of Act 1 of some inane saga — then make your move, says Maya Talisman Frost, a self-help expert in Oregon who calls herself “The Mind Masseuse.”
“Connect by laughing, nodding in agreement or sharing their emotion by saying, ‘I hear you!’ ” says Frost. “Touch their shoulder lightly and shift your position sideways so that you are looking beyond them.”
While turned, tell the chatterbox that you see someone you need to talk to and then excuse yourself.
Have a plan
Just like the military, you need an exit strategy, says Ekroth.
Prepare a conversation-stopping excuse beforehand, maybe something like: “I’m sorry, but I need to call my sick dad. He ate some of that bad spinach.”
If you’re going to the party with a date or friend, tell him or her to break up any conversation that goes beyond five minutes.
Put your cellphone number on your speed dial. When you get trapped by someone who wants to dissect last night’s “Dancing With the Stars,” sneak a hand in your pocket and call yourself.
The give and go
As soon as you realize you’re with a Gabby Hayes, find the closest person you know and enthusiastically introduce them to each other.
Say something like, “Hey, Fred, Gabby was just telling me about her plantar warts. You’ve had foot problems, right?”
Then smile and drift away.
Cruel but effective.
And as a last resort
A few chatterboxes simply will ignore all your efforts. That leaves you with one option: escape.
Put up your hand like a cop and say: “Excuse me, please.”
“You do not need an excuse to exit,” says Ekroth.
And then walk away.
As you leave, remember there is nothing rude about taking back your party time. Being rude is chattering away someone else’s.