Etiquette: The conversation hog

Feb. 02, 2013 @ 01:16 PM

It’s a social plus to be a good conversationalist. It’s not a plus if the conversationalist dominates all the talk at a seated dinner party, or any event, whether seated or not.            

Recently, Fred and I hosted our dinner club on our front porch. Luckily, we had Lisa Freeze as part of the party.

Lisa is a welcome addition to any group, for she can dominate the party in a good way. She will regale you with stories of her grandfather, who kept a rifle or gun in all corners of every room of his house. Upon his death Todd, her husband, had to find and seek them all out unless the law or the grandmother found out.

Lisa is so entertaining, and makes all her adventures come to life. She then, with her easy drawl, turns the conversations over to others in the group to contribute their past stories and events.

“Frank, I bet you have some great tales you can tell us,” she said.

And off Frank launches into his rendition of his past escapades.

Lisa kept the conversations rolling all night with her usual skill and smile.

This didn’t happen on a recent trip Fred and I took to Lumberton, N.C. We were there to celebrate the birthday of our close friend Patrick Dunbar.

Inadvertently we got stuck at a table with a nice older gentleman who dominated the conversation for over an hour.

While it was somewhat interesting in parts, a combination of afternoon heat, alcohol and no guest participation made for a very boring event.

Let’s say it would have been better if Mr. Boring Person had realized that Lisa Freeze could have taught him how, after his first introductory paragraph, to share the spotlight and bring others into the conversational dialogue. 

Mr. Boring should have followed what Lisa would do – ask questions of each individual, such as “where are you from?” if you don’t know the audience. If it’s a group you are familiar with, then pose questions like, “What did you do last Tuesday?” or “Have you read ‘Gone with the Wind’ lately?” 

Fred and I could have gotten up and gone into another room. We could have jumped in when Mr. Boring gave the slightest pause and changed the subject. Maybe we should have used the standard phrases “Please excuse me” or “Let me interrupt you for a minute.”

Conversations are a two-way street, a simple exchange of ideas and thoughts. This kind of social interaction is not meant to be a one-person show, seminar-style presentation.

Try not to be the bored audience or the boring conversationalist. Think when you speak. Pause often and listen to what others have to say.


• Monroe resident Jeanne Howell teaches etiquette to business and private groups. She can be reached at 704-221-1905 or at