Monday, March 24, 2008

Taming the Terrible Talker with the Two Minute Tip

Have you ever been to a social get-together where one overly-talkative person “hogs” the conversation? No matter how many times other people try to contribute, they are constantly interrupted by the “hog’s” incessant need to speak? And though everyone around him seems to notice his lack of social etiquette, nobody is rude enough to point it out. So the “hog” continues to roll around in his own mud, spewing out stories and anecdotes until you are literally covered in his material. It becomes more of a “Hogversation” than a true social interaction, leaving the participants feeling tired and suffocated by such a domineering orator.

But how do you tactfully tell someone to shut up when you are certain to hurt their feelings and cause embarrassment to everyone around them? It is not an easy thing to accomplish, especially if the oblivious talkers assume their listeners are thoroughly captivated with lengthy diatribes. (Stay-at-home parents are often guilty of this type of excessive talking, as they are usually hungry to speak to anyone over the age of ten. These types of diatribes are sometimes sub-categorized as “Momversations,” referring to the repetitive nature of the subject matter.)

My favorite rule of thumb is to gently introduce the “Two Minute Rule” into the conversation. The basis of the Two Minute Rule is pretty simple--NEVER dominate a conversation for more than two minutes. To talk longer than two minutes makes you sound like you're giving a speech, and this should be avoided at all costs. True, some stories might take longer than two minutes to tell, so naturally there are exceptions to this rule. But if you tend to be the type of person that links five or six stories together without taking a breath, than perhaps you too suffer from “Hogversation.” It’s much better to bring up a topic, ask others what their opinions are, and then contribute your ideas or opinions during the intervals.

I have one friend who has a severe case of “Hogversation,” as she happily recounts one tale after another (usually about her children), and seems oblivious that others might want to speak as well. And when the rare opportunity for entry into the conversation is granted, she usually has a better story about your “topic,” and therefore interrupts you to immediately tell it. Most of the time they never get back to your story, and are onto another topic within minutes.

To avoid this type of situation in the future, I suggest instituting the two-minute rule at the beginning of each social gathering. It will make everyone aware of the etiquette right off the bat, so you don’t have to embarrass anyone later. And then if someone does “break” the rule, you can jokingly remind them without making it sound like an attack. You can even make a game of it. (“Hey, let’s play the two minute rule tonight. Anyone who breaks it has to take a drink.”) Not that you necessarily have to make every conversation a drinking game, but you get the idea.

But that’s just me. How do you tactfully train a Conversation Hog?


Lilly's Life said...

Run, Forrest Run. It's the only thing to do. Your blog is hilarious. Love it!!!

Henson Ray said...

Thanks for stopping by. Glad I could amuse you. (I love Australia, by the way. Went there two years ago, and want to go back.)

Elise O. said...

Ugh. I don't know, which is better... conversation hog, or someone like me who can't even start a conversation that lasts two minutes?
I don't know... Hmmm.
Liked your post! Very interesting. My trick is to avoid the people that dominate conversations... That's the easy, possibly very rude way out, I suppose.

Henson Ray said...

I know exactly what you mean. I consider myself a shy person, and yet I've been forcing myself to intitiate conversations at parties with people. And I find that they are happy to have someone else break the ice. The key is: ask questions about THEM, rather than telling a story about yourself. Where do they live? How do they know the people throwing the party? Easy stuff like that. Once you get the other person talking, then the conversation becomes very easy to maintain. Anyway, thanks for stopping by. Hope to see you again soon.