Stuck with a Know-It-All/Pontificator
November 11, 2010 5:48 PM   Subscribe

If I am trapped in a meeting or group with a co-worker who likes to hear himself talk (I mean really pontificate) do I go zen on it all? How do I adjust my own frustration? He sometimes has an entourage/fan club which isn't my business but I get really frustrated when stuck with him. He also tends to show up in the same small group parties I have attended. Deep breathing doesn't seem to be helping. I'm thinking about a flask of whiskey.
posted by snap_dragon to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Remember that this too shall pass. And, sympathize with why he needs to have an audience.
posted by Leezie at 5:54 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

For endless meetings made even longer by Self Important Talking Guy: while pretending to take notes, really be doodling various angles of his head.
posted by Tylwyth Teg at 5:56 PM on November 11, 2010

When I'm in this kind of situation I tend to subtly start up a satellite conversation with someone else close by. For example, recently this occurred during a workplace conversation about holidays. The pontificator in question waxed lyrical about his multiple holidays abroad - I listened for a while and then started up a conversation with the girl next to me by saying "Wow, some people get to travel a lot! I've been to the States, but not many other places. What about you?". I have also found "Sooooo, how's your week been going so far?" does the trick too.

N.B. mostly, the people I start the satellite conversations with seem happy to get involved in the tangent!
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 5:58 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Find a word your pontificating co-worker uses way too often and just count how often he uses it in each blathering session. I have a hard time not laughing the 25th time someone sticks 'incentivise' into a sentence.
posted by foodgeek at 6:11 PM on November 11, 2010 [4 favorites]

In a meeting situation where someone's yammering on interminably, I dream up a bunch of little quizzes for myself. For instance, I'll see if I can list all the countries in Africa, all the US Presidents, all of the counties in my state, etc. Sort of an analog version of It's a great way to fight the tedium and get a brain workout while you're at it.
posted by yalestar at 6:17 PM on November 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

Corporate Bingo

While it looks like I'm taking detailed notes on my workplace orator's incredibly interesting monologue, I am really exchanging texts with my work buddy across the room about what an ass she is. So very juvenile, but it helps us get through it relatively sanely.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:20 PM on November 11, 2010

You could try feigning uncomfortably rapt attention, and interrupting him every time he really gets going to innocently ask questions upon questions upon questions. It might be amusing and effective to think up the most nuanced and tangential questions possible, while still maintaining plausible deniability. At least this seemed to work with some professors I’ve had. It depends on whether or not he just likes to hear himself talk or he has pet subjects.
posted by Nixy at 6:26 PM on November 11, 2010

"That's a very good point, but I'm not sure it's germane to the question, which was [brief on-point summary]."

They'll start asking you to lead the meetings if you get good at this.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:44 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Should you decide to go the "flask of whiskey" route, I'd recommend this.
posted by 0x88 at 6:47 PM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Make a game out if it! Notice the weird thing he does, predict how many times it'll happen in X amount of time, and start counting. I know a jerk I can't stand, who adjusts his junk all the time. Nothing takes the sting outta hanging out with that butthead quiiite like counting his nut-grabs. I also like to calculate his average sac-pulls per minute. Sometimes I play price is right and take bets from other people who also don't like him. This past-time has totally turned around my experience of him: I used to groan when I saw him; now I kind of look forward to it. (Once I counted 99 peepee pulls in an hour. Ninety nine. I won five bucks.)
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:55 PM on November 11, 2010

Dude, someone is paying you money to sit and listen to some asshole. 100-some years ago you would have been losing fingers in a a textile mill. Maybe use the (presumably complete) set of phalanges you have to count the money you're making by being mildly annoyed.
posted by ghharr at 8:16 PM on November 11, 2010 [16 favorites]

Do you actually want the pontificating to end, or are you looking for better ways to endure?

Plenty of suggestions above for how to endure, but why not try to actually make the meetings more productive?

Eyebrows' advice is fantastic, and way politer than anything I've ever managed to come up with in the same situation.

(I'm guessing that my personal solution won't apply to you - I worked on a project where the pontificator/rambler was my direct supervisor. So I approached him about the issue outside the meetings, and he worked on being more concise and on-topic ...but that's academia for you ...)
posted by Metasyntactic at 9:34 PM on November 11, 2010

Ghharr - I think you just changed my entire working life. bless you.
posted by tristeza at 11:03 PM on November 11, 2010

If you're in a job like this, I assume you have a bit of experience getting through dull lectures. If you can remember, use those techniques. Daydream, if you can. Try to come up with stories, be they serious or silly. Use the time for introspection- think about one aspect of your life and how you think you're doing. Remember to also note the good, and not just the bad.


Doodle. If you are a crap artist like me, just start making a closed, overlapping curve on your paper. Fill in some of the regions, turn it around to see if you can find anything it looks like. If you can, add to it until you get the thing you think you saw. Repeat.
posted by Hactar at 11:36 PM on November 11, 2010

At work you have to deal with this bozo, at a party, you don't. I strongly vote for the side conversation when this starts up at a party...or, my favorite move, the slow walk away. When they start up, just start inching away - you will find many compatriots doing the same thing. You will have an instant bond and conversation fodder as you all gather at the farthest point in the room from the orator. At work, just imagine how you're going to ignore them when you have a choice in the matter - it's refreshing.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 3:05 AM on November 12, 2010

Obviouslu, you're that old crusty sergeant who has to listen to Steven Segal say shit on Steven Segal: Lawman.

I would talk some your self. Get a whole bunch of your boring thoughts off your chest. If he complains say you are just following his lead.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:00 AM on November 12, 2010

Calculate how much he is costing everyone who has to listen to him using the Meeting Ticker!
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 6:27 AM on November 12, 2010

Thanks everyone for the great answers. I overmarked "best answer" when all seem appropriate.(Even my choice to not lose a finger in the textile mill, Ghharr, which I assume is longhand for "Look on the brightside". I'll add that thought to my partaking of a shot of whiskey for breakfast, thank you very much...). Also, points to Ironmouth for the Steven Seagal/Lawman reference. There is hope on the horizon, even when dealing with people who pull on their ding-dong.
posted by snap_dragon at 7:16 AM on November 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't need the meeting or it is unsalvageable, just stop going and explain yourself if you have to.

Assuming that you actually need this unproductive meeting and that Alice is your meeting facilitator or the person who sets the agenda, "Awesome, you've been to Argentina? Great! Alice, have you ever been to Argentina? Maybe we should talk about this after our next agenda item." Redirect the conversation to the person owning the meeting and ask for a redirect back to the agenda.

If you don't have an agenda or a facilitator, but still need the meeting (*sigh*) you can always engage in the conversation. Ask for absurd amounts of detail until everyone else gets sick of the conversation too. Drag as many other people into the conversation as possible until it implodes into a thousand tiny side conversations.

"I like turtles." is usually a good way to shock people back to task.
posted by boba at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2010

Might I recommend creating an online identity for this guy. Create a Facebook or Twitter account on his behalf. Every time he says something that annoys you, turn it into something amusing and create a status update out of it. Its surprisingly cathartic.
posted by unceman at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2010

« Older Is this jeweler ripping us off?   |   lines i told myself i couldn't find Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.