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Carolyn Hax: Your friends won’t stop talking. How do you tell them to get to the point?

(Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: Please help me deal with two friends who talk incessantly. Both feel the need to dominate conversations by sharing every single detail of their days. They rarely ask about me. I can’t spew out details of my life quickly — it takes me some time to warm up and share. During that time, they interrupt and change the topic back to their lives. A typical phone call takes an hour, during which I hear details of the dog’s eating activities and conversation with waiters at restaurants I don’t frequent. I am bored to death!

We are all retired, so they know I can answer the phone when they call; they know my volunteer schedule and don’t phone during those hours. They know my cellphone is nearby. I cannot ghost them. And I can’t come up with any good excuses to get off the phone! If I say I “have to go,” I am asked, “Oh, what are you doing?”

Please tell me how I can politely tell them to get to the point.

— Bored to Tears

Bored to Tears: Maybe I will, but first I want to find a wormhole to go back to your childhood to slap the person who installed your current operating definition of “polite.”

Metaphorically. Of course.

You don’t need excuses to get off the phone! “I’m going now — talk later.” [End call.]

You don't need to be busy to decline a call! [Decline.]

You don't need to explain what you were not busy not doing when you decline a call! [“Nothing interesting. What's up?"]

It’s no wonder you have friends talking kibble to you for an hour — you have no working defenses against them.

It’s never too late to build some, though — you just need to embrace the idea that you can. That you’re allowed to keep yakkers at bay and still be considered polite. That you will be happier if you keep yakkers at bay.

I realize these are not universal preferences. You might prize your definition of polite. It might be your own, not some overbearing-family residue. You might prefer yourself as the lovably long-suffering ear to these navel-lint scientists.

So that's the first part of my advice: Decide who you want to be, how you want to see yourself.

You are asking how to get them to cut it short, yes, which means you’re obviously not content with the status quo. But you want them to change, not you — and besides being impossible (pause for intermission and the column’s “You Change You, They Change Themselves” musical number), could that also mean you value being the one they all call? You just want some handy phrases to shave off the last 15 minutes?

If it’s just that, then there isn’t (and hasn’t been, all along) anything stopping you from thinking some up. “I have to go” — for chores, errands, other calls, “this and that.” Not because you owe people reasons, but because you seem to want them.

If you’re really ready to reclaim your time from grabby people, though, then go back to the foundation. Your time is yours, you give it as a gift, gifts are the giver’s prerogative, and any time is a good time to screen non-emergency calls. Good luck, and let us know how the kibble saga works out.