With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, now seems like an excellent time to brush up on our etiquette. As much as we love our families, everyone has one or two difficult relatives that can make the holidays a stressful time, but a little etiquette refresher will help you keep your cool as you diffuse what could turn into a dramatic situation.
Take the person who just can’t stop talking. Maybe it’s an older relative who doesn’t realize you’ve all heard his or her stories 300 times, or maybe it’s just a Chatty Cathy who manages to steer every topic of conversation into a monologue about her “fascinating” life. Yes, talking non-stop and interrupting others is bad etiquette on their part, but since they probably don’t realize that they’re talking everyone’s ears off it’s up to you to exercise a little control over the situation—otherwise you’ll go insane!
If someone starts telling a story that you and everyone at the table has heard so many times you can repeat it word for word—and it’s not a cherished anecdote that you’d like to hear again—nod politely and say, “Oh yes, I think I remember you telling us about this” or something to that effect. Acknowledge it in a way that makes the teller think that the story was a memorable or interesting one (you can smile or chuckle), but make it clear that you don’t need to hear the story again.
You can also stop someone blathering on and on by redirecting the conversation over to someone else. You don’t have to interrupt—which is rude—but you can wait for a small pause as your opportunity to interject. For instance, if Aunt Sheila is talking incessantly about the cats that belong to her friend’s cousin’s daughter (none of whom you know), wait for a pause and then say, “Oh, that reminds me—Cousin Jeff, your family has a new pet, don’t you?” Jeff can then respond and other people will have a chance to join in the conversation.
If all else fails, you can always use food, drinks or a Thanksgiving activity as a segue. If someone is going on and on and you can tell everyone else has had it, interject by asking the table if they’d like coffee or tea, or suggest that everyone move into the living room to watch the big game. If you have a child, ask the talker if they mind keeping an eye on the kid while you do dishes or check on the turkey; this will keep them occupied and not so chatty!
Most importantly, don’t shush or snap at the big talker. Yes, their behavior is annoying, but you don’t want to aggravate the situation by telling them to shut up or rudely cutting them off—trust me, you’ll regret it.