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Friday, June 28, 2024

Conversational Hell

For those of us who do not live alone in a cave, an occasional visit to conversational hell is an unavoidable fact of life. What are your strategies when you've found yourself unable to escape a conversational situation that has you involuntarily grinding your teeth?

I'm not asking about the far-too-frequent political garbage all of us routinely face in our contentious present. Instead, I'm curious what you do when you've been trapped by one or more of the following types:

* the over-explainer
* the know-it-all
* the clueless, aka "I'll fill every available conversational space with jabbering, mostly about me"

My visits to conversational hell have been infrequent enough to be tolerable. But some recent experiences were so egregious I was desperately searching for a new way to escape, short of bolting from my seat screaming. In what was supposed to be a book discussion - for at least twenty painful minutes - I worked on a flat affect look in a vain attempt to hide my disbelief at the incessant rambling of a clueless prattler. Then just a few days later, as a prelude that went nowhere, an over-explainer launched into an extended dissertation about the merits of rap. Because of where I was seated, unnoticeable egress was not an option. I put my head down - the flat affect approach was impossible - and wrote in my journal. I filled three pages; he was still obtusely pontificating.  

Now about the know-it-all. I suspect there have been instances when others may have felt they were in conversational hell with know-it-all Pat. Mea culpa. And perhaps because I've worn that hat, it's possible my radar is oversensitive to other types who occasionally corner each of us. In the end, the many hours I've spent in conversational heaven - and my own work mitigating the know-it-all to ensure people enjoy conversing with me - make me grateful for 99.5% of my conversations. Hell can be hot but it's preferable to a cave.               


  1. The worst conversation crime in my opinion is someone who is BORING. I recall working with a woman who was so incredibly boring that during a dinner together I was so pained by the utter banality of our conversation that I invited a stranger to dine with us (he was eating alone). "Come join us!" I implored. Others might have thought I was being friendly to invite a solo diner to our table. In reality it was a selfish act: "Please save me from this woman and our dry-as-bones conversation!"

    1. Anonymous; Although I didn't specify the boring conversationalist as a type in my post, I too have spent time in hell with that species, although not as frequently as with the others. Thanks for your comment; I feel your pain.