Q. I am basically a non-pushy, nonaggressive conversationalist. For a long time, I just called myself "a good listener." There are times, though, when I'd like the chance to talk, myself. And yet there are so many people in this world who will just talk right over me. Sometimes I'm halfway into a sentence or an idea when they burst in with their own.
Is there a polite way to deal with conversation hogs? I'd love some constructive advice on this, as I am bewildered.
A. What makes this bewildering is that conversation, which is supposed to be a two-way street, is treated by many people as if it were a divided highway. They may acknowledge that traffic must go in both directions, but speed independently on their own way, expected you to do the same.
If you are, in fact, a practiced "good listener," you have not been traveling through life in silence. You have been asking questions, inserting relevant information and providing commentary on what the chief talkers to whom you have been listening are saying. A good listener is not someone who has to be checked every now and then by the speaker to see if he or she is awake.
Presuming, therefore, that you have been doing some of the talking (and if you have not, you might begin by adapting your listening method), you need only to make the transition from supporting role to leading role. It is unfortunate that this (if Miss Manners may drop the new metaphor and go back to her original one, which was more clever) is often like trying to drive over a grassy highway divider.
The way to get the floor is to say something related, however vaguely, to what has been said before. While lulling the speaker into believing that you are responding as a listener, this tactic can be a shortcut to the main highway.
Once in the driver's seat, you should try to be a good talker. That is to say, you must allow proper interruptions that are in the tradition of good listening, and even encourage them by asking occasionally and perhaps superfluously, "Don't you think so? or, "What do you think?"
If people persist in trying to wrest the controls away from you, put up warning signs. "Just a minute -- I haven't finished," is one; "But wait -- I haven't told you the point yet," is another.
(All right, If everyone will now stop talking for a minute, perhaps we can find a volunteer to rescue a lady caught out there is the verbal under-brush).