did someone muck with the backend here

Re: Deteriorating

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Yes, this is about Jammies' family visiting us for a long weekend.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 1:58 PM
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I'm on my second (third?) meltdown of this holiday season. Yesterday's resulted in me being the worst hostess I've ever been as I hid in my room to prevent screaming.

What I learned from the experience is that some people are buffet-come-when-ever-you-like people and some are we-sit-down-at-a-set-time-formal-dinner people. I am the latter, my husband and friend are the former. Turns out that putting buffet people in charge of part of the formal dinner is a recipe for disaster. Also the friend was late because he was watching some sort of sports game. Obviously, I'm still mad. And I understand why my mother flipped out every Christmas.

Tying this back to making conversation, I felt so much pressure to just push all my feelings into cheeriness and friendliness and to make conversation. Like a perfect 1950s housewife. Anyway, making conversation is a skill I learned from my mother and I'm getting more and more annoyed when people haven't learned the skill (or don't admit it's a learnable skill) and make conversations really hard.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 2:25 PM
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Teach me the skill! Please.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 2:47 PM
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My skills only really work with strangers/people you don't often see. It's why I know a lot about the folks of a specific neighbourhood in Albany, NY, and also why carpentry is an interesting job. I also talk about hunting and fishing a lot.

With family, I don't know. You run out of small talk and don't want to get into deep discussions so there's nothing to say.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:28 PM
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Is that last sentence a generic you, or me in particular? I'm not anti-deep discussions.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:33 PM
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You = me


Posted by: Hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:48 PM
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Honestly, it was mostly people quoting Caddy Shack at each other.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:50 PM
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(This is too confusing. I was talking about myself)

Find a topic that you both have knowledge of but don't care about personally? Shopping mall design? Best dog breeds?

I'm going to watch the Slow channel from Norway and learn about firewood.


Posted by: hydrobatidae | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:51 PM
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What if I've made life choices that have now resulted in me mostly being surrounded by boring people? What if, fundamentally, I can't hang with people I find interesting and can only hang with boring people? What if I'm stuck in a club that would have me?!?


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:55 PM
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I was on board with 8! Just struggling with my own angst.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:55 PM
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Argh, 6, not 8. 8 as well.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 3:56 PM
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What if I've made life choices that have now resulted in me mostly being surrounded by boring people?

Does that refer to becoming a math person or having all the kids?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 4:10 PM
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Because they really do get much less repetitive after about nine or so.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 4:11 PM
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Let's all list who makes us pull out our phone fastest when they start talking: Friends, co-workers, neighbors, kids, or other family members.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 5:10 PM
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The OP could be me.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 5:28 PM
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Misery loves being terrible company!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 6:03 PM
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Speaking of which, I'm at my sister's in-laws'.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 6:10 PM
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I don't even have a sister-in-law yet.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 6:14 PM
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2: Teach me too please. I don't care about family so that's fine.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 6:33 PM
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Well, the good thing for me is there was never any meaningful room for deterioration in my conversation skills. I'm usually quiet and have conversations with long excruciating silences, but then every once in a while I start talking and I don't know when to stop, and I inevitably overshare and embarrass myself. Worst of all I always remember every stupid thing I say.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:29 PM
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And it's too bad, because I'm actually interested in other people. I just can't get myself out of the way when I'm in a conversation. That's why I prefer eavesdropping or reading novels.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:33 PM
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To be a Peeping Peep, as it were.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:35 PM
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I too love eavesdropping! One of my very favorite things is to go to bed when I'm camping and continue to listen to the campfire conversation from my sleeping bag.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:35 PM
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And then I hate it if anyone is talking while I'm trying to read.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:36 PM
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Do you tell them if you are going to be reading in the sleeping bag or not?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:37 PM
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24: That happens to me on the bus not infrequently. The people talking will be very annoying, until I decide to just give up on reading and focus on eavesdropping.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:42 PM
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25: they can tell by whether I'm yelling crotchety expletives at them or not.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:53 PM
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Most people can't pull off "consarn it" unless they are near a camp fire.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 7:55 PM
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AIHMHB I did have a boyfriend who legit said dadgum.


Posted by: heebie | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 8:13 PM
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You young people and your Gabby Hayes cosplay.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 8:26 PM
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Reflecting on this - when I was married I spent a fair bit of time with my in-laws and extended family for many holidays. They were for the most part rural and parochial, some extremely so.

Weirdly, I feel like I did much better at this (generating conversations, avoiding arguments) with them than I do often with people I have much more in common with.

Or maybe I'm just worse at it in general, but don't know as I have no occasion to see these people any more.


Posted by: soubzriquet | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 10:22 PM
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I'm terrible at making small talk, too. But I've observed my friend J., who's great at it. It seems that he really listens, and most importantly, he's willing to let silences hang ..... it seems that (and he told me once) most people have difficulty letting silences hang, and will rush to fill then up. So he just waits, and the other person will speak up. And then he just tries to follow along.

it's hard, especially when one is feeling terribly uncomfortable. But he's an excellent conversationalist. And as he says, it's b/c he speaks less.

[He claims that it's excellent for negotiations, also. But then I'm terrible at those, too.]


Posted by: Chet Murthy | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 11:05 PM
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Merry Christmas!

I don't really recognize the dynamic in the OP, but then I've never really cared much about making conversation.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-25-17 11:43 PM
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I avoided a political conversation tonight, which is good because I think it's kind of a waste of time to talk about the tax bill with people who have built-in mechanisms for dismissing all objections ("sure the tax bill is a giveaway to corporations, but corporations already always win and haven't paid taxes for years so it's not a giveaway at all and we'll get a little personal benefit and also health care should be ruled by competition because that's what makes it effective") when the more urgent conversations in the future will be the ones with phrases like "purge", "show trial", "cult of personality", "you say you support them now, but how will you feel about being asked to inform on your neighbors?"

For context, some of these Trump supporters at dinner would not have the citizenship that enables them to vote for Trump if "chain migration" were banned. But of course the immigrants targeted by anti-immigrant rhetoric aren't them or their friends or the nice people they know who also immigrated. Anti-immigration rhetoric is all about the fine distinctions. (Actually, I don't think anyone asked point-blank about the anti-immigrant rhetoric; as I say, I stayed out of it and out of earshot of most of it.)


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 12:16 AM
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Being able to avoid dinner conversation is a benefit of non-formal dinner serving regimes.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 12:18 AM
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Being able to avoid dinner conversation is a benefit of non-formal dinner serving regimes.

This, for sure.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 12:26 AM
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Though actually the conversation at the formal dinners on my current trip to see family has been fine. It's a very like-minded group politically, at least.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 1:05 AM
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||

This one's for Moby, a Christmas Pokemon poop story.

|>


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 1:35 AM
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It's true that the political conversation I avoided was after we'd eaten, but still the lack of expectation that we'd all be in the same room at the same time helped.

Also, I'm not convinced by arguments that you have to engage your relatives or you'll never get anywhere. Or at least, I'm not convinced everyone is engage-able. It's one thing if people hold identifiable views in a way that makes it clear that you're talking about the same views but also disagreeing. It's quite another when someone's views are amorphous and shift to dismiss objections as they come up.

"I don't believe the party I support actually advocates what you say they do but also I don't believe your arguments against what I don't think they advocate. I think they favor this demonstrably false representation of what they believe but you cannot demonstrate to me how it's false. What is knowledge, anyway?"


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 1:39 AM
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I don't believe the party I support actually advocates what you say they do but also I don't believe your arguments against what I don't think they advocate. I think they favor this demonstrably false representation of what they believe but you cannot demonstrate to me how it's false. What is knowledge, anyway?

Worst Howard Jones cover ever.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 2:33 AM
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Well, I for one am grateful to Trump for bringing my entire family together - we can be a bit argumentative at times but we were definitely all on the same page this year. (As a friend of mine in L.A. remarked: "this Times article about Stephen Miller is wrong. It says he divided his synagogue; I went to that synagogue and EVERYONE hated him.")


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 3:01 AM
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38: Thanks?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 5:54 AM
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But I've observed my friend J., who's great at it. It seems that he really listens, and most importantly, he's willing to let silences hang ..... it seems that (and he told me once) most people have difficulty letting silences hang, and will rush to fill then up. So he just waits, and the other person will speak up. And then he just tries to follow along.

I'm good with this. IME, though, it's more likely that women fill the silence than men. There's just been a lot of silence over the past four days. Eventually Jammies' dad just started watching movies on his ipad in the living room, one after the other, sitting in a rocking chair, as though he was in a long airplane flight.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:47 AM
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Have one of your kids kick the back of his chair.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:53 AM
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43 is such a Great American Novel line.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:59 AM
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Four days is a lot of time to fill. I'm sure you've tried this, but just to get a sense of the dynamic, what happens when you try to talk about the movie afterwards?


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:59 AM
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If the movies are Batman, it doesn't mean much more than that he's had too much human contact. If it's My Dinner with Andre, that's not so easy to explain away.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:03 AM
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We didn't watch anything new - A Christmas Story, Elf, Bad Santa, Christmas Vacation. So I didn't actually try to talk about them afterwards. (Also I didn't watch them all myself. I especially dislike Bad Santa.)


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:04 AM
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Die Hard is the best Christmas movie.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:08 AM
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My Christmases would have been so much better if I'd had a tablet to watch movies on. At the office party I just read on my phone, shamelessly.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:20 AM
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We seem to be surviving this Christmas by buying hard copies of newspapers with a shitload of crosswords and quizzes in them and ploughing through them all.

On small talk, you need to learn what will press the other person's expertise button. Ask the right question and you can bask in the warmth of their monologue without paying the slightest attention for half an hour at a time. But it does require a bit of prior research.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:31 AM
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What I find interesting is the difference between two different failure modes - one, as around a dinner table, where the others are trying to play ball (i.e. they've chosen to accept the mission of having a conversation) but somehow things don't gel (in that sort of situation I have no shame and will keep trying stuff and talking even as the waters close over my head) and another (maybe with people scattered around a living room) where the mission isn't common knowledge or people keep trying to renege on their commitment to it, in which case I'll just let the thing die.


Posted by: One of Many | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:31 AM
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Opinionated Ogion tried to say nothing, but the comment form only knows how to chatter.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:46 AM
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Shorter 42: ??


Posted by: nworb | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:02 AM
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My grandfather had this great ability to make conversation with people. Not just old white guys like himself, although back when he was growing up in a homogeneous society, it must have been easier to start conversations because you had a common frame of reference. I could not figure out how he did it. Maybe the younger people were humoring him.

I do think it's something people are bad at in 2017 America, because we are not forced to do it anymore, we always have ways to avoid it. We have no methods to cope with boredom. I watch an old movie and people are OK with sitting around in the same place for days at a time looking at nature and playing cards.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:04 AM
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We seem to be surviving this Christmas by buying hard copies of newspapers with a shitload of crosswords and quizzes in them and ploughing through them all.

Also, jigsaw puzzles.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:06 AM
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Travel is a very rich vein to mine.

Have you traveled anywhere lately? How was your trip to [place]? Will you be traveling during the holidays / the summer / spring break? Any travel plans coming up?

Then you just keep asking questions and making rhetorical statements that function as questions. Wow, that sounds [great / hectic / relaxing]! What was the food like? What were the people like? Had you ever been scuba diving before? Was it hard to learn? Had you ever been to [continent / region] before? I've never been to [continent / region]. Where else have you traveled? Did you like being on a cruise ship?

How do you keep your kids entertained during those long flights? Isn't it great how so many planes have seatback entertainment now? Airports, amirite? Airlines, amirite? Remember when airlines used to ...?

In a group conversation, kick it off with who's traveled the furthest away from home? What was that like? How did you decide to go there? Who's traveled to the most countries? Where haven't you been that you want to go?

People looove to talk about their trips. If you're really desperate, ask to see the photos on their phone.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:17 AM
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There has to be a middle ground between silence and asking for punishment.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:18 AM
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I'm getting better at smalltalk, but I'm still very bad at it. I still fall back on sports.

Went to a party with a bunch of old friends who are very politically oriented, and we often argue politics. The subject basically didn't come up (What is there left to be said about politics?), and we had plenty to talk about otherwise. But I've been friends with these folks for decades.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:19 AM
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The archives.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:44 AM
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crotchety expletives

The greatest of these is of course "jiminy Christmas", which has been gleefully adopted by my oldest daughter via my father.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:50 AM
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Fuck boredom. I forgot to say that earlier.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 9:19 AM
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I watch an old movie and people are OK with sitting around in the same place for days at a time looking at nature and playing cards.

In the old movies I tend to watch, there's usually a murder of someone whom everyone else in the house has a motive to want dead. The ensuing investigation helps to pass the time.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 9:19 AM
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I've recently started to actually listen to what the other person is saying instead of waiting to say the thing I'm thinking. Being present, they call it. It's remarkable how much less boring it can make some conversations. I think a lot of what feels like boredom in a conversation is actually impatience to say your INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT POINT that must be said now!!!! It's probably the same point you've made about the subject before or it's a point that other people in the conversation will make if you shut your yap. (Important exception: a well-timed joke that will make everyone see how clever you are.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 9:45 AM
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57: My inlaws putter and NEVER travel. You can always get my mother-in-law to talk about her grandchildren though.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 9:46 AM
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Should I take this thread as an order to make extended, forced conversation with the guy seated next to me on the plane. Hurry and answer before the door shuts.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 11:38 AM
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My stepfather, Reno born and bred, said "jiminy Christmas" a lot. Is it that corridor of the West, or available to crotchety fellers everywhere?


Posted by: lourdes kayak | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 11:54 AM
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66: YES!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 11:58 AM
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(reposted from Awfully Specific)

The dinner table conversation with my family got a little out of hand this year, but in a way very specific to my family. A question about etymology led to my father standing up (he was leaving to get more wine) and announcing "Did you know that there is a word for when you are trying to think of a word you can't remember?" We all played along "what's the word, Dad?" "I don't remember" but then he told us the word: lethologica. And I said "oh, like the river," and only one person knew what I was talking about, and amidst incredulous responses to how any river could possible be involved, several fierce side arguments ensued about Greek mythology and/or etymology.

Then it was time for dessert so everyone became friends again.

I don't really recommend the "lethologica" bit as a general-purpose conversation starter, though I do like "guess what weird fact I just learned!" if I have a weird fact that I just learned.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 12:54 PM
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64 I've recently started to actually listen to what the other person is saying instead of waiting to say the thing I'm thinking.

It is incredible how much easier this makes it to have a conversation.


Posted by: E. Messily | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 12:56 PM
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It's also horribly annoying at times.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 1:21 PM
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The upside of having been professionally paid to talk to people for 25+ years is that I can have an interesting conversation with almost anyone under almost any circumstances. The two things that are almost impossible to fix are a monosyllabic person and one who visibly resents your presence/the situation.

Other than that, I'm perfectly willing to look/sound ridiculous, which gives me a lot of leeway to get conversational balls rolling by asking questions that other people might think are dumb or irrelevant. I once made a difficult plane flight bearable by having a lengthy conversation with the grizzled, annoyed conservative man next to me about a) propeller planes and b) Camp Lejeune and the Marines. In that case, librarianship definitely helped -- knowing even a tiny bit about somebody's home state or pet interest helps you ask more questions and keep them talking.

All of the above scenarios, including talking with my sister's semi-challenging in-laws, are enormously preferable to how I actually spent today: Having repetitive and emotionally draining conversations about elderly relatives' financial situations and plans for their future health and well-being.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 5:46 PM
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Tell them to ask for a home with Steve Harvey-free tv. It's important.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:31 PM
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Your mind goes and before you can stop it, your kids are watching Family Feud.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:33 PM
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No Steve Harvey, no Dr. Umar Johnson, and no T.D. Jakes. Also not the blonde prosperity-gospel lady I just saw on Twitter praising DJT as a man of God.

The problem is that two of the elderly relatives in question are in UTTER denial about life expectancy. I fail to understand how they can be so convinced that they are exceptions to the Social Security actuarial table. If anything, as college-educated upper-middle-class white people they are going to live LONGER than the actuarial table says.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 6:33 PM
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Maybe they are asking you to kill them if they go broke and being too subtle?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 7:59 PM
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One of them in particular is completely in wishful-thinking land when it comes to assisted suicide. He seems to think he will either be perfectly fine (that is, able to live independently or with minimal home-visiting help) or terminally ill and therefore ready to take himself out. No matter how many times we discuss the matter he is unconvinced that he will be in the fat part of the bell curve, spending some years dealing with the totally normal deterioration of physical and potentially cognitive well-being that most of humanity* deals with in their late 70s and 80s.

*The part that hasn't already died, of course

It would probably be less infuriating if I didn't have $&^!()$#! e-mail documentation of our repeated discussions over the past X years. It's like Groundhog Day, except with four adult peers and one elder.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 12-26-17 8:12 PM
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