Life is chock full of know-it-alls, bullies, baiters, grandstanders, mansplainers, won’t-let-you-get-a-word-in-edgewisers. Whether it’s someone’s way of dominating you or the conversation, it’s disrespectful and annoying. That person isn’t listening to what you’re saying, nor are they interested in hearing what you have to say. These people are solely interested in the sound of their own voice and bowling you over with their own agenda. These agenda typically fall into categories including:
- Poor You, Here’s How Much Smarter I Am
- Poor Me, Here’s What a Victim I Am
- I’m Uninformed on This Topic, But I Never Let That Stop Me
- I’m Drunk, But I Never Let That Stop Me
- You Mentioned X So This Is Where I Typically Go On and On Until I Run Out of Breath
Any dame worth her salt will refuse to be bullied by a bloviator’s blitz, so here are some techniques to stop the impertinent onslaught and perhaps start an actual dialogue.
The “Kamala”. As seen in the debate between Vice President Harris and Mike Pence, it’s as simple as calmly saying, and repeating, “I’m speaking”. Calmly explaining, and repeating, “I’m not finished” or “Please stop interrupting” indicate that you demand attention and deserve respect. We can’t control people’s behavior, but we can communicate – to ourselves as much as to them – that we don’t just lie down when others mean to bulldoze over us.
Sotto Voce. Speak in a such a low voice that the person, and anyone else around, has to lean in and listen intently. Its soft calmness will also be in sharp contrast to the interrupter’s bombast. If and when the interrupter starts interrupting again (and he/she will), do it again. While the person’s talking. Just persist in speaking sotto voce. Don’t let up. If you’re in a group, it’s even more effective if you walk over to another person or part of the group and start talking softly. This really takes the wind out of the interrupter’s sails.
The Reminder. Very often people like to hear themselves talk; their primary intent is to impose their words on you rather than engage in an actual exchange of ideas or information. You mention your daughter is trying to choose between majoring in English or History and before you know it someone is railing against “Critical Race Theory”. Gently but firmly put up your palm, and remind the interrupter of the topic at hand. “We were talking about my daughter choosing between an English or a History major.” At this point add some relevant information, e.g., “She wants to be a journalist”, or “She wants to be a lawyer so either makes sense.” If the fulminator starts up again, rinse and repeat as many times as necessary. Don’t let the interrupter get away with it. Their lecture isn’t welcome, and you don’t have to put up with it. They’re used to taking up space, but don’t just hand over yours.
Gracefully End It. What you want to avoid is getting into a full-blown argument with an interrupter. They will barely let you get a word in, and won’t be listening to you but rather just waiting for their chance to speak. (Or not waiting, as the case may be.) If the person veers toward bombast rather than dialogue, and the techniques above don’t make a dent in the lackluster bluster, graciously end the conversation. Suddenly remember you have to make a call, announce you have an irresistible urge to examine a doorknob in another room, excuse yourself to get a cup of coffee. It really doesn’t matter why you leave the room, just that you do. Personally, I like to look the person in the eye for a few beats, smile bemusedly, and then make a dignified exit. Less important than showing up the interrupter is to show your own self-possession and self-respect. Nine times out of ten, the pompous pontificator will not feel the least “shown up”; if he notices at all he will only decide he’s “won” or that he’s scared you away. No problem, let him. This isn’t a contest, but neither are you his powerless audience.
A big part of being a dame, perhaps the central tenet, is a feeling of poised self-possession. Even more important than lipstick, it’s essential to always carry your self-respect everywhere you go. There are so many subtle ways people show us disrespect – the manspread on a crowded subway, a “harmless” joke made at your expense, someone who shows no interest in your perspective. There will always be people who run roughshod over you, or explicitly or implicitly disrespect us. But for heaven’s sake, don’t help them.
(This piece also appears in my “Age Against The Machine” column on Jumble & Flow)