I’ve had a lot of conversations in the past months with people about their tendency to dominate conversations. Most have gone well – but the latest one didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.
I get frustrated when people finish my sentences for me, interrupt and/or talk over me, often assuming they know what I am trying to say. (Trying is the operative word here since they don’t let me finish.) Addressing it hasn’t always been easy or fun, but, to the credit of the would-be-dominators, I am now able to enjoy the company of several people instead of being frustrated in their company or distancing myself. Occasionally I hear of someone else who experiences the dynamic that I have worked through with them.
Saturday was a different story.
“Abby” was interested and excited about doing work for me. She had everything I needed – the skills, the enthusiasm, the interest. Except there was one problem. When we spoke on the phone, she interrupted me several times, took the conversation in directions and details that didn’t serve the point, and basically dominated the conversation.
There was no space for grace.
There were several things I intended to say that I didn’t because Abby was doing a lot more talking than listening. I considered saying something about it on the phone, but decided to wait until we met.
When I got off the phone, I told my husband, “I will not have one more tangential person in my life.” If it was going to work, Abby and I needed to find a better communication balance.
I mentioned the issue to the gal who referred Abby. Yes, she noted, sometimes when Abby called she would put the phone down and do other things and Abby didn’t notice. In fact, she had just done that for an hour.
That wasn’t going to work for me.
So I told Abby that we needed to work that out if we were going to be able to work together. Abby launched into a long and detailed explanation of what had happened the day we spoke that made her nervous and chatty. I felt that sinking feeling I get when I sense I’m being led down a rabbit hole. I told Abby those were the kind of details that I found distracting and off point. Abby seemed to understand, and after that, she only interrupted me once. Abby left all smiles and reportedly eager to start.
Two hours later I discovered a message on my answering machine. Abby wasn’t going to be able to work for me after all. She was very reluctant to speak with me when I returned her call. She said I put out “uncomfortable energy” and she needed to be herself at work.
On reflection, I can think of ways I could have said it better. That’s always true.
Am I disappointed? Yes – and I’m also relieved. If someone being herself means talking and not listening, this isn’t the place for her. I’m sure she has people who love her. I also know pretending to listen like the woman who referred Abby just doesn’t work for me. Abby had everything I was looking for on a skill level. Just not on a communication level.
Man, that girl can talk. But I discovered she isn’t willing to listen.