SP: Boring Company
Updated: Oct 8, 2019
“This is diagram eighty three of my finger nail’s regrowth. Notice how...”
Captain Locke struggled to raise his eyelids to full mast, but the Major’s obsession with the recovery of his war wound, a thumbnail smashed in an unbattened hatch drained his will to live.
“I see,” he replied numbly, when the superior officer paused for breath. His mind wandered to his training, to see if he learned anything at the academy to deal with the situation. Thoughts of countless calisthenics, repetitious reports, and peeling potatoes dominated the results of his search. Not the escape he looked for, the memories reminded him of happier times given the current prospect at this dinner party.
A gentleman strives to be patient and amicable. Sometimes a conversation turns one-sided, creating an unwilling participant and often an unaware captor. Borish behavior happens. For some it is their nature, others, an unintended side effect of unbridled and unshared enthusiasm for a subject. The principles of manners should supply a gentleman with the tools to extricate oneself or a friend from an intractable monologue with a minimum of bloodshed or hurt feelings.
Emily Post wrote the book on Etiquette. In 1922. From her chapter on conversations:
A bore is said to be “one who talks about himself when you want to talk about yourself!” which is superficially true enough, but a bore might more accurately be described as one who is interested in what does not interest you, and insists that you share his enthusiasm, in spite of your disinclination. To the bore life holds no dullness; every subject is of unending delight. A story told for the thousandth time has not lost its thrill; every tiresome detail is held up and turned about as a morsel of delectableness; to him each pea in a pod differs from another with the entrancing variety that artists find in tropical sunsets.
Don’t Be the Bore
Those of us who are talkative are more likely to commit this offense than the silent type. The gift of gab includes a curse. Ms. Post includes a number of tips, which I’ll sum up.
Think before you speak
That slight pause can avoid offense and let you consider your audience and message.
If you’re repeating a point or the conversation has looped to where it began, or you’ve told the same story three different times tonight, it’s time to stop.
If you’ve done most of the talking, the others haven’t commented much or you’re not even sure if they like the topic, it’s time to wrap it up and hear them.
Pick an Agreeable Topic
Don’t leap right into your love of baseball without finding out if the other person likes baseball.
If you don’t know, say so. If you’re not a surgeon, refrain from commenting on the best way to transplant a body part.
Save the InfoDump for the Lectern
As a subject matter expert, it’s easy to slip into lecturing on a subject instead of discussing it. Keep details sparse unless asked to explain.
Don’t be negative, cynical and blunt
There is a time and place for having a considerate conversation about something negative. But a cocktail party isn’t it. In most times and places, the guy who is “just saying it like it is” isn’t witty or kind.
Dealing With a Bore
A gentleman seeks to avoid embarrassment or hurt feelings when possible. Dropping the blunt bomb, “Dude, you’re fingernail slide show bores and disgusts me.” might end more than you expect, including others esteem for you. So as in self-defense, let’s try a scalable response to the problem.
Engage the Topic
This sounds like the opposite of your goal, but the topic may shift once you are active in it. It certain turns a wallowing situation into something else.
Shift to Related Topic
If you’re engaging in the topic, at some point, you can say, “that reminds of this other thing, have you seen it” which works well when stuck talking about a sci-fi series you didn’t watch on one you both might have.
At some point, you have someplace to be, look at the time, and say, “”Sorry, this has been interesting, but I’ve got to finish an errand.” It’s polite and depending on what you say you have to do, is true.
Say You're Not Interested
As we slide from indirect methods to direct ones, the earlier steps attempt to recover balance and value from the conversation while saving face for everybody. This step should not be bluntly done. A simple, “I’m sorry, but I don’t follow baseball, it doesn’t interest me.” makes it clear without putting them or their topic down. You can follow up with a new topic, “but I like needlepoint. Are you into crafts?”
The Real World
It is certain, I’ve been the bore. I talk a lot and know the signs. One sign somebody else is being a bore is because I’m not talking. There’s some other related concerns, following and other creepy behavior that we’ll save for another time. I’ve been trapped in a boring, one-sided conversation with friends, and didn’t have the benefit of this research. We muddled through, but all of us shared concern about the feelings of the talker. In our instance, we could guess they might be struggling to be social and to make friends. What I find in researching etiquette and manners, as a steampunk, is to strive to treat our fellows with dignity, and to start with compassion.
Captain Locke’s gaze meandered until it came across Lady Andromeda Keye speaking to an Ambassador who was speaking more to her decolletage.
“Major, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to punch a man, and I think your glass could use more punch.”
The Major raised his empty glass, “By Jove, you’re right. Would you like a drink as well?”
“Not for me, but the Ambassador’s gonna need something stronger,” and with that Locke strode across the room and gave him a tap.