How to turn rudeness into socially acceptable behavior
December 27, 2019 3:21 PM   Subscribe

If I categorized my personality in social "hey hows it going, good friend " situations I'm a pretty humble and likeable person. In situations where I'm approached by someone who's "Hey there would you like to talk to me and find out how much we have in common I'm interested in meeting you" I would

Say I have less warmth to me. My quandary is how do I become the least abrasive to people while still keeping my dignity when I dont feel attracted to peoples idiosyncratic nonsense speak and incessant texting while using horrible grammar and over use of certain catchphrases and other annoying quirks. Like people who talk forever without pausing or letting others in on the conversation. The most recent example is on a phone call where the speaker was going on for over 5 minutes about some fact of country living and dirt biking that had nothing to do with our previous conversation I abruptly stopped him and said "this is not what I'm interested in talking about" which seemed out loud like a rude thing to say but my choice was to stay quiet and continue being bored by that. I see myself as someone who wants to at least not tear people down emotionally if that makes sense. Can someone see a better way for me to deter my instinct to be this harsh? Or is that a better use of my honesty than I'm aware of ? I'm not a fan of the old "is that the doorbell I hear" fake out.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you share more context? Given the topic of conversation, was the person on the phone a friend? Also are you getting feedback that you’re rude?

I guess I’d recommend practicing a few lines that aren’t lies but can change the subject. Something direct like, “Sorry to interrupt, but I only have a few minutes. Can we talk about ____?” Or else something where you sorta take charge, like, “Oh, that’s all great! Now, I did want to ask about ____.”
posted by bluedaisy at 3:40 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Do you actually want to get to know these people? Or do you just want to extricate yourself from conversations without being a jerk?
posted by yarntheory at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2019

So, in addition to quiet suffering and rude shut offs, there is third option - the redirect.
Don't wait until the conversation is five minutes in and you are so desperate to get out of it you can't stand it. Two or three minutes in, gently interrupt and change the subject to something that is likely to be of more mutual interest.

Also, you don't have to be friends with people who really annoy you. If someone has a communication style that annoys me and no other redeeming virtue then I refocus my attention on those who have more potential.
posted by metahawk at 3:45 PM on December 27, 2019 [5 favorites]

"this is not what I'm interested in talking about" which seemed out loud like a rude thing to say but my choice was to stay quiet and continue being bored by that.

Well, but this is a false dichotomy. These weren't the only two choices; as bluedaisy points out, there's a whole range of other choices, like, "Sorry, I don't mean to interrupt, but can we just touch on and such and such for a minute?" or "Oh, hey, could we set up a time to meet in person? I prefer that to talking on the phone."

Also, you seem to be talking about a pretty broad range of situations, because this:

I dont feel attracted to peoples idiosyncratic nonsense speak and incessant texting while using horrible grammar and over use of certain catchphrases and other annoying quirks.

is totally different from this:

The most recent example is on a phone call where the speaker was going on for over 5 minutes about some fact of country living and dirt biking that had nothing to do with our previous conversation.

The first I totally understand feeling annoyed by; I can't stand when people overuse popular locutions like "Asking for a friend" and stuff like that, and if the person I'm speaking to is, say, someone I met on OKCupid, then it's probably a pretty clear sign that I should just decline to meet the person in the first place. But the second one just seems like maybe the person was talking a lot because they were nervous or not getting social signals over the phone, and yeah, tbh, the way you dealt with that was pretty rude. In that case, it's good to learn ways to gently redirect the conversation rather than just bluntly stating that you're basically bored by what the person is saying -- again, something like, "Sorry, I actually have to get off to take a business call in a couple of minutes, so what say we set up a time to meet?" or whatever your goal is.
posted by holborne at 3:56 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Monologuers are annoying for sure. Usually they mean well and are just lonely or have a bit of social awkwardness or are super excited to talk about whatever, so it's good to be kind. I think your interruption as you describe it was understandable, but rudely executed and overly blunt. If you need to maintain a relationship with the monologuer, that's a terrible way to do it. It's unexpected, hurtful, and embarrassing- very destabilizing to an ongoing relationship.

Step one: Slow their flow!
Ideally in a way that doesn't seem mean or rude.
You can compliment: "Oh wow, that sounds really amazing! You're lucky to have found a passion."
Or you can fake an interruption: "Oh amazing, Dave sorry can you hold one sec? Doorbell... (pause for 10-20 seconds)"

Step two: End that part of the convo.
They will try to continue, but now their momentum is a bit broken, so it's way easier for you to break it off for real. They continue... "Yes dirbik is passin I luv burbpike I even pedal hillishly in rains--"
"So neat! Thanks for sharing that. Sounds amazing. Hey Dave I meant to ask you [actual content of call]".

I also have to say... you seem to have a lot of contempt for normal texting patterns? And like... cut it out? People text, they type fast, phones make mistakes, texting is meant to be an ephemeral, convenient medium, not an eloction. And being snotty about spelling and grammar is classist and often racist. So like, work on yourself, for that part. Contempt is super unappealing.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 3:57 PM on December 27, 2019 [12 favorites]

You mention you don't like the doorbell fake... The reason the doorbell fake is great, and such a classic, is because it allows you to get what you need (end of boring story) while ALSO allowing the other person to save face and not feel embarrassed or judged.

The plausible story is that you didn't stop their story because they're boring, you stopped it because you had A Visitor Ring The Doorbell (or A Call On The Other Line, or whatever). So the other person doesn't need to feel bad, and social friction is minimized.

Saving face is important and if you give people a little space to manoeuvre around their missteps, they will like you more and also maybe cut you a break if you make a social gaffe (like rudeness!)
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:07 PM on December 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

You don’t owe anyone your time, and there are a lot of women who are dying to be more direct in the way you describe. This is a superpower, don’t let it go entirely. Why would you want to cultivate relationships with people who bore you? I mean, these are feeling out conversations - it’s ok to decide you don’t mesh and you aren’t interested in trying to carry the entire burden of interesting conversation. It is seriously 100% ok to be abrasive. For real for real. You don’t have to be everyone’s cup of tea.

If you want to get out of a conversation (your doorbell example) you can say “welp that’s about it for me! I’m gonna let you go until next time.” You don’t have to have an excuse. You can just say bye.

If you are interested in meeting people and aren’t good at those initial conversations regardless of whether they seem cool, I recommend reading up on small talk. Being good at small talk gets a bad rap because people associate it with salespeople, but also people really enjoy hanging out with people who are good at it. Don’t passively let conversation happen to you - have your own tactics. And feel free to say “yeah, I am not in to dirt bikes. You’ll probably have to find a different conversation partner for that one.”
posted by stoneweaver at 4:11 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want to not just be less rude, but actually improve your conversations with people consider this: every single one of the things that annoys you, that person has a reason for doing. Talking for too long? Usually nervousness, or maybe they are someone who isn't often listened to and doesn't get a chance to express themselves, or they thought you were interested and they made a minor mistake. Have compassion and redirect them. Using awkward catchphrases/references/memes? Again, they probably feel awkward or uncertain of what to say and are reaching/leaning on it, maybe you aren't upholding your side of things, or should try to help them feel more comfortable in the conversation. Poor grammar? Are you sure you aren't mistaking a dialect or vernacular, or the intentional bending of rules to express a certain register of conversation (informal vs professional), or are you overreacting to someone's lesser grasp of formal grammar, which is neither a moral nor personality failing?

If you're trying to get to know someone as your post implied, trying to see from their perspective seems like step one. Step two is simply tact (redirect, and other polite ways to slow down someone's monologue that other users are giving you), which you can access more easily if you try step one. That is, of course, unless you just want to get out of these conversations and not pursue them, in which case "Well hey, it was really nice talking to you! I've got to [EXCUSE], [SALUTATION]!" will do it.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 4:12 PM on December 27, 2019 [9 favorites]

The way to change the topic of conversation without being rude is to change the topic of conversation, rather than telling someone you think their conversation is uninteresting. Ideally, pick something adjacent to the current topic.

"It sounds like to are really into dirt-biking. Since I live in the city I don't really do that, but I am very into more urban outdoor things like parkour and every day I try to run in the park. It is so important to get outside, don't you think?".

If they go back to dirt-biking after that, you can try to turn the conversation again but it may be just that you don't have anything in common. If it is a getting to know you situation, especially something like pre-dating, you can even be honest that you are looking for common ground without implying that they are boring you.

"I can tell you are really into dirt biking! Neat that you're so passionate about it. It's not something I have done before so I didn't know anything about it. I wonder if we have any hobbies in common? I am really into z, y and z."
posted by jacquilynne at 4:52 PM on December 27, 2019 [10 favorites]

Others have provided techniques. I think it might be beneficial to understand or question your own thinking behind social interaction.

"this is not what I'm interested in talking about"

I mean that's pretty shocking. It's not that it's shocking just because it's obnoxious but more because your idea of conversation appears to be quite self centred. He may have changed the conversation because he wasn't interested in what you had to say but he was nicer about it - i.e. he just changed the conversation.

Conversation needs to be about mutual interest and the sharing of individual perspectives. Do you agree with this? Or do you think it should be solely about your interest?

If you are discussing something and the person is not interested in what you have to say or finds you irritating, how would you like them to deal with it? Or are you okay with people speaking to you as you speak to them?

It is legitimate to find people annoying and to not be interested in everything they have to say but I think there must be some understanding that they likely feel the same way about you at times.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 5:05 PM on December 27, 2019 [30 favorites]

You kind of have to match your colloquator's energy. Intensely talkative people who don't quit tend to be interruptors, too, and if you get two of them together they will interrupt a lot and probably never get to the point of any story--and that's fine, their feelings don't get hurt at all. And if someone's a good listener, I don't take advantage by being long-winded, I intentionally stop talking when it feels like a good moment to get their feedback and open up space for them.

Rules of etiquette go both ways. If somebody talks nonstop for five minutes on a topic not involving deep emotion, they are the rude one. You are not the rude one for interrupting in an appropriate way.
posted by Sterros at 7:56 PM on December 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Have you considered being evaluated for communications disorders? Some of what you describe is consistent with symptoms of those conditions.

And it does seem you're applying unfair standards to others that you don't apply to yourself. Your own comments here show a number of typographical, grammatical, and spelling errors. Would you consider it appropriate for us to stop this conversation, or turn the topic to critiquing you, because of that?

And racist? Why would poor grammar in text indicate a racial difference?

Policing grammar and dialect is something that reinforces white supremacy, denying that there are legitimate cultural forms of expression that deviate from the conventional standards. Textspeak is one of those, but so are other colloquial styles that are associated with various cultural communities.
posted by Miko at 6:44 AM on December 28, 2019 [10 favorites]

>And racist? Why would poor grammar in text indicate a racial difference?
Thankfully this comment seems to have been deleted before I saw it, but to answer:

There are many people whose first language is not English. Many of these people speak / write / text English with grammatical structures or spellings influenced by their first language. Often people whose first language is not English are from races other than white, so semantic errors can become convenient fuel for racist classification.

There are many people whose first language is an English dialect other than General American (for instance, African-American Vernacular English, American Indian English, Cajun English, Chicano English, New York Latino English, Pennsylvania Dutch English, Yeshiva English, Quebec English, etc). Often these dialects are distributed among specific races or fairly tight-knit social groups that already experience marginalization. And often people who speak these dialects find that many General American English speakers treat them with contempt, underestimate their intelligence, withhold systemic rights like jobs and housing, and so forth. And since people who speak, for instance, dialects like AAVE or Chicano English, etc, are generally not white- again, these linguistic differences often end up providing people with convenient fuel for racist classification.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 11:27 AM on December 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

Maybe try being more understanding of people who don't use grammar the same way you do, and that not everyone needs to use commas the same way you do, or end their sentences with a period, and just focus on the content of what they are saying instead of the grammar.
posted by yohko at 3:43 PM on December 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

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