Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.

How to deal with people that dominate conversation and talk over others?

(84 Posts)
Galaxycounters Sun 02-Dec-12 17:11:02

Yesterday I went on a day/night out for a friend's hen day/night. There were 10 of us that went. I'm friends with them all but not good friends.

Two that went are very, very loud dominant characters. One in particular is extremely loud, talks constantly and expects full attention of everyone in the group every time she opens her mouth, which was extremely draining. We met up initially at lunchtime and had lunch as a group and for the whole of the lunch (90 mins) she talked and expected full attention of the group, in a very loud voice, talking about things about her and her life. No one else could get a word in edgeways. The other loud girl did sometimes get to speak but she'd usually totally cut off anyone that tried to speak and carry on talking, so in the end we all gave up. I tried a couple of times to make conversation in a little sub group with the 2 either side of me and she'd start looking at us all, saying our names, or pointing at us like she was directly talking to us and no one else so it felt rude to talk.

We did an activity in the afternoon, which was fine as we were in pairs/small groups and it was easy to avoid her, although she was VERY loud. Then in the evening we had another meal, during which she was even worse than lunchtime. We must have been in the restaurant for 2.5 hours and she talked the entire time. She had had a lot of alcohol and spoke again about things she'd told us in the morning at lunchtime, and again no one else could get a word in edgeways. If any of us spoke in a small group she'd just dominate the conversation and try to drag us back into listening. The few occasions anyone else did manage to talk she'd turn it back round onto her. I didn't hear her ask anyone else a single question about themselves, it was all about her.

I'm so cross. I feel she ruined the entire day tbh. I found her speeches very boring, she isn't very politically correct and I would imagine has caused a bit of offence.

How is it best to deal with people like that? Why do people get away with that kind of behaviour?

HullyEastergully Mon 03-Dec-12 17:44:44

new shoes may I ask are you aware when doing it? Or not? What is happening in your head? (Trying to understand friend!)

lottiegarbanzo Mon 03-Dec-12 17:51:31

Do those who say they do this just babble endlessly, or do you actually do what the woman described did - actively demand people's attention and work to maintain it, deliberately preventing any other conversation from starting within a large group? Those are two quite different things.

HullyEastergully Mon 03-Dec-12 17:55:34

My friend does that, lottie

It's like the "Friend Show"

lottiegarbanzo Mon 03-Dec-12 18:09:18

I had one friend who did that, it was as if she was a stand-up performer, others could play a part in her performance, if she felt they were adequately in tune with her and allowed it, but she controlled the timing and put down other interventions. She was a control freak / martyr / drama queen in other ways. Massively attention seeking, quite entertaining but ultimately not a good friend.

Newshoesplease Mon 03-Dec-12 18:21:15

I babble a lot, eg I'll talk in detail about my children to colleagues or something, before realising they're probably only pretending to be interested & they've glazed over! I wouldn't point at people & demand attention or anything! I sometimes ramble on without Thinkin, then catch myself & think "oh shit!" & have to bit my lips to stop me interrupting any more! It's a trait I really hate! X

HullyEastergully Mon 03-Dec-12 18:21:20

yy lottie

what is it about do you think?

Newshoesplease Mon 03-Dec-12 18:21:42

Excuse the text style "x", oops! blush

lottiegarbanzo Mon 03-Dec-12 22:50:58

Not sure, think it may have been rooted in family ishoos, desire to stand out, be in control and a big fish in her own little pond and just being quite self-centred and easily bored.

garlicbaubles Mon 03-Dec-12 23:18:14

I'm afraid I've skipped over most of the posts - I promise I'll catch up after this!

I do it sometimes. I can't explain why; I'm worse when drunk, but it's not the drink that prompts it and I've never quite figured out what does. If you're lucky I'll catch myself and shut up (I can be quiet, too!) but I really appreciate friends who know when to tell me to pipe down.

Perhaps it's easier for me than for nicer other people, but the usual way to deal with an own-voice-lover is to interrupt. You have to do it quite loudly and hope someone's quick enough to pick up your new strand - and you may have to do it repeatedly. People who grew up in large, talkative families tend to be more comfortable interrupting. Even if you're the timid sort, it's better than suffering collectively, so give it a shot smile

Some folks have something wrong with their wiring and are completely oblivious. Sadly, there's not much you can do about them except avoid in future.

BerylStreep Mon 03-Dec-12 23:41:48

I once knew a whole family who talked really, really, really loudly. You could hear them from miles off, and they were completely oblivious. Lovely people, but talked at 200 decibels.

My sis had to tell me on a recent trip to visit her in London that you can only whisper on the buses. Not sure what she was trying to say!

Anyhow, not quite the same issue, but anyhow ...

liveoutloud Mon 03-Dec-12 23:50:19

What do you do if a person in question is your VERY close relative? She is not mean or anything just cannot control her talking. Talks all the time, never takes a deep breath and listens to others. It is almost painful being around her, and no, I cannot avoid her.

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 00:07:07

Ooh, some great posts here. Glad I caught up! Keep them coming, please, I'm learning good stuff smile

^^ see, I just made the thread about me, didn't I? blush

Mostly, I think I'm like Newshoes. I feel I really have to make a contribution to the conversation and then massively overdo it. There is definitely some overhang from the big family thing, too. Not only did we have to battle for airtime, but had a controlling parent who dictated long periods of silence. We were also expected to engage in competitive conversation at mealtimes - it was intended as a kind of debating practice, and we were all good in school debates, but that doesn't do much for one's light chat skills.

Thinking about it, the suppressed silences meant we'd all go mad when exuberant speech was allowed but had little exposure to the ebb & flow of normal conversation. So maybe, when I'm on a roll, I'm revelling in the freedom of being able to say what's in my head --> inner-child takeover! Hmm, I could work on that ...

From being a mainstay of the school debating club and a wannabe actress, I went on to a career in catering and then to sales. I was basically paid a small fortune to get people's attention, hold it and persuade them to do what I wanted. I'm sure this led to my grandstanding outside of work, too: using words to dominate can become a habit. Since most of my friends were in similar jobs, we all did it. No wonder we were always the liveliest table at restaurants! People must have hated us!

I hadn't given much thought to how the childhood led to the work, which led to dysfunctional conversational habits. I'm not being funny about helpful replies here; I really am learning something! Thank you for starting your thread, Galaxy!

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 00:09:29

liveoutloud - Do what television interviewers do: "Can I just stop you there ..."

My Inner Jeremy Paxman is a tremendous asset wink I'm going to introduce him to my Conversationally Repressed Inner Child!

HullyEastergully Tue 04-Dec-12 09:51:36

lottie (ignores garlic - JOKE), yes, family stuff I think. My close friend who is the worst, who LITERALLY has to talk about herslef all the time or feels uncomfortable and ignored, is seeking love and attention that she didn't get as a child. But of course it's self-defeating, because she is driving people mad.

It has affected me lately because we are often together in various social groupings and because I have long since given up attempting to speak when she is there, new people think me cold and unfriendly as I sit in silence....!! aaagggggggghhhhhhh

NomNomDePlumPudding Tue 04-Dec-12 12:41:25

i do this a bit i think, particularly the talking over blush i think it's because i had so many siblings - had to cut in to be heard. but that's no excuse now i'm a grown up... i suspect it's also to do with finding social stuff slightly overwhelming, talk or flight instead of fight or flight, iyswim

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 13:45:50

Hully ... <talks over everyone else> ... Any chance of getting a conversation going about conversation? If no-one had ever done this to for me, I'd be even worse than I am!

Lots of people haven't ever thought about how conversations work.

BetsyBlingtastic Tue 04-Dec-12 14:07:58

DM is a one-woman monologue artiste. Not happy unless she is in charge of a conversation, interrupts, rarely asks about others.

I give my rather reserved dc 50p for everytime resist her interrupting what they're saying continue till they've finished their story/anecdote whatever.

I don't want them to learn from their grandmother that it's okay to accept being squashed in a social situation. Nice little earner for them too!

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 14:14:26

Hah! Good for you, Betsy grin

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 14:15:10

Oo-er, that grin looks scary in its santa hat, doesn't it?

Proudnscaryvirginmary Tue 04-Dec-12 14:16:06

I don't think there is any excuse for doing all the talking, softly or loudly, and taking over all conversation. If you know you do this - just, uhhhh, don't! Stop yourself. Stop talking. Listen. Ask about other people.

To the people who say they are shy or nervous - I am too (though got so much better in last five years because of my job where I have to meet new people at functions etc all the time) but it is a) easier to hide nerves by asking about other people and b) it is far more courteous and people will like you!

I also do the 'sorry X what were you saying' if the Big Gob interrupts or I go and get a drink/do a wee/talk to someone else/talk quietly to another member of the group.

<am I allowed to write 'gavel' or is that totally illlegal on here now?>

garlicbaubles Tue 04-Dec-12 14:33:36

Well, using your gavel on a discussion about people rudely refusing to listen to other people's views would be a bit counter-productive, Proud wink

HullyEastergully Tue 04-Dec-12 14:51:20

Garlic, I have those all the time...convos about convos. She talks all the time about how she is really really working on her listening and everyone interrupts don't they? And anyway and another thing and....

lottiegarbanzo Tue 04-Dec-12 14:52:41

I agree with 'don't', so in that sense accept your gavel.

But...! Conversation about conversation, that is interesting (see I do like talking). Have people really not thought about how conversation works? I know it mostly comes naturally but it is interesting - or maybe I've spent far too long sitting in meetings, noticing how people talk and whether it gains attention and support. Not the same as social conversation but not entirely different.

So, I'll start, with this.

The most common mistake people make in conversation is to leap from 'I know something about that' to saying it, without pausing to consider if it is interesting, relevant or moves the discussion forward.

In a social sense this leads to the phenomenon of 'the bloke who tells you things' (but never asks questions about you) and 'the woman who has experienced that' (and is more interested in telling you the same old story again, than seeking to understand why you mentioned the issue and what your point or dilemma is) and, in a work sense to the 'serial illustrator' (who can always find another example to talk about but cannot focus on the purpose or desired outcome of the discussion).

So, the skill of self-editing is valuable. It is amazing how many conversations are just a sequence of related anecdotes and that can be fine but it can also be frustratingly pointless and unfulfilling.

HullyEastergully Tue 04-Dec-12 14:55:08

MIND YOU lottie, I am genuinely interested in what people say and do tend to ask a lot of questions to get to the nub...and guess what? I get accused of making other people reveal themselves and not saying much about myself...

damned if you do etc

lottiegarbanzo Tue 04-Dec-12 15:09:55

Do you Hully, could you say a bit more about how you think that came about?

I was going to say that, for the less naturally domineering, learning to play the 'host' role in a conversation, keeping it flowing by taking the lead where necessary, is just as important and difficult as not talking for the chatty. It's something I've had to learn to do in groups (can talk endlessly 1 to 1) and recognise when telling a story about myself might be just the thing to keep things moving.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now