Updated: September 1, 2011, By Judith Martin
Dear Miss Manners: I have a friend who doesn’t listen very well, yet thinks she is an excellent conversationalist. When I talk to her, my words are just there to let her find an opening to talk about herself, which she does with gusto. Sometimes both conversations go on at the same time. (She doesn’t care if she talks over me.) She can’t wait—it’s too important because it’s about HER.
The original conversation is just in her way, I guess. If I wait a minute, she realizes that I was talking. I can hear her change gears and retrace her steps to the original conversation. She’ll stammer something about what I had been talking about.
It’s demoralizing, because I know she’s just remembering her manners, but is really interested in talking only about herself. If I say a strong opinion in a conversation, instead of responding to it, she’ll yelp out a different side of the thought and never comment on my opinion. It’s like I’m talking to myself.
And if I talk of something that she can’t plug into her own life, there is dead silence for a minute, then she overreaches for something far-fetched, just so she can talk about herself. Anything is better than just responding to what I am saying.
As might be expected, I don’t dare complain to her about this. She is not keen on getting complaints. I would be screamed at.
Gentle Reader: Your friend has no interest in you whatsoever and screams at you if you dare to question her.
Miss Manners recommends changing your telephone number. She hopes you do not harbor the illusion that the failure to exhibit respect and—in the case of a friend—genuine interest and affection is a mere oversight that can be corrected by calling it to the offender’s attention.