DEAR CAROLYN: A group of 10 ladies gets together weekly and we do an annual trip together. Nine of us are frustrated by one friend who does not have group social skills. She interrupts constantly, asking questions that would be answered if one could finish one's story. She responds to every comment, dominating conversations. We find ourselves going totally silent to control the constant chatter, which includes talking to herself. Nine of us are miserable.
I have had a one-on-one which seemed well-received, but no progress came from it. We would welcome any suggestions. Total alienation seems like the only solution at this point.
DEAR READER: "Totally silent" to a "one-on-one" to "total alienation" sounds like a complete and logical sequence only if your goal is never to say anything out loud.
So often that is the goal, tacitly, even subconsciously -- and I'm saying this from the inside. I was socialized that way, too. Because speaking up would be "mean." Right?
Yet it doesn't take much scrutiny to see that silently, abruptly cutting a 10-person group to nine is just about the meanest thing there is.
And once you see this, then you can also recognize that when a freshly interrupted speaker says to the oafish friend, out loud, midcrowd: "Would you please let me finish?" ... pause for a beat ... "Thank you" -- every. single. time. -- it is an act of comparative kindness.
So take this on. Every single one of you who has a problem with her manners. Kindly, firmly, clearly, let her know when she oversteps. "Thanks for your observation, Rudi. I'd also like to hear what others have to say."
No piling on! Tempting as it is. One voice per incident with one gentle redirection. The more of you taking a turn, the better.
Maybe she'll eventually get it. Maybe for her it's ungettable. Maybe just speaking up will feel so liberating that you'll mind her less; never underestimate the power of your perceived helplessness to make an otherwise bearable situation seem unbearable.
Maybe she will find these new conversational guardrails so insulting, she'll opt out of the group on her own.
And maybe you'll just end up at the exact same "only solution" you already suggested. But even then, if it does come to the point where none of you invites her to anything anymore, it won't hit her abruptly and in silence; such cruelty, that. Instead she'll have had a wake-up-please grace period in which several people who care about her openly identified behaviors of hers that were out of line.
That's still not a guarantee she'll get the message, of course -- but at least it gives her a fighting chance to, while also making it clear rudeness like hers won't stand.
DEAR CAROLYN: Can you help me convince my gullible friend that multi-level marketing is basically a pyramid scheme? How are these even legal?
My friend subscribes to every trend, especially those concerning health and food. Now I find out that, because she knows people who work tirelessly in multi-level marketing, the business must work as promised. So far, no information I've presented to her will make her have any doubt. I've run out of ideas.
-- Skeptical Friend
DEAR READER: You can't tell people things they aren't ready to hear. I'm sorry.
Chat online with Carolyn at 11 a.m. each Friday at washingtonpost.com. Write to Tell Me About It in care of The Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20071; or email
Weekend on 03/28/2019
Print Headline: Tell friend -- out loud -- to cut it out when she interrupts