I could remain friendly at first, though now I have trouble even doing that. She monopolizes every conversation, talks over you, interrupts when you can get a word in, or steers everything back to a random story she just has to tell.
I know it bugs my parents and other brother- and sister-in-law, but they have much better poker faces, and jokingly complain when Tina leaves. At this point, I just play with nieces and nephews rather than attempt to engage.
Is this a battle I should choose to fight, and let her know I have a hard time holding a conversation when she's around because she talks over everyone, or do I just play with the kids and let it go?
— Silent Sister
Silent Sister: Can’t say I like my choices.
The play diversion is fine, of course — and akin to what I often recommend for dealing with a difficult personality in the close quarters of a family gathering. Find ways to be busy, to enjoy yourself, to get fresh air, to piece together a bunch of small strategies that help you preserve what you love about family time.
Tina doesn’t sound like an agent of malice, though, so much as social ineptitude. And so it just feels . . . unfortunate to encourage an approach that effectively humors her to her face while quietly icing her out.
I know, I know, she drives you nuts. For valid reason, it appears, and by her own hand. And you’ve tried. And I’m not the one who has to be at these Sunday
But giving up on her will be available to you eternally, so why not postpone it in favor of one (more) big push to make a Tina-shaped place in your heart? For the woman who’s “good for” your brother?
This push can also involve the piecing together of multiple strategies. You’ve likely defaulted to seeking proof you’re right to dislike her; we all do that. Force yourself back to seeking her strengths. Find any mutual interests. Anything. Then ask questions, invite her into this space to feel welcome.
That alone can blunt a person’s (nervous) impulse to dominate.
Also, share activities that aren’t conversation-dependent and have end points. Cook or wash dishes together, run errands, start board-game tourneys. Whatever. Set bearable terms, include Tina.
Been there, done this? Try again. Worst case, you’re back where you are now.
Most important, be assertive in conversation: “Hang on to that for a sec, Tina — I’m almost finished.” “That’s [positive adjective], Tina. Going back, though, Mom — you were saying?”
Never meanly, of course; think moderator of a lively panel discussion.
I’m not saying to try forever — just, again, for Team Sunday, which sounds worth fighting for.