People Who Don’t Stop Talking: A Passive Aggressive Playbook

Have you ever encountered a person who incessantly speaks, and when it is your turn in the conversation they listen to you only for opportunities to regain control of the conversation? What is with that? How can we, as both a listener and speaker, avoid an abusive monologue? Let’s consider James.

For three years James has been inadvertently practicing the art of the monologue with a one person audience. His monologue includes a section on how he hates his job, and he follows it with unwritable checks for the bank of action. He is all talk, no action; All talk and no listen. His mouths writes checks that his ass can’t cash, and every conversation with you is an attempt to sign a new loan.

Enter the monologue:

It’s been ten minutes of one way conversation and we can no longer stand the barrage of uninteresting horse shit spewing from the mouth of James and into our freshly q-tipped ear canal.

Our reptilian brain is sleeping. The master borer has serenaded our mind’s serpent and we are stoic and stoney still. Without instinct to intuitively guide us away, we resort to shifting our body language:

“Maybe James will get the hint that if I square my hips with the nearest exit, he should change the subject.”

“Okay, but don’t be too obvious. You’re still a polite person and we don’t want to offend James with the truth that he’s verbally abusing us into boredom. Hips squared away. Eyes on door.”

And our dear friend James still has no clue we are suffering. He might be blind, or absorbed, or both. Maybe we were too subtle.

We look with haste at our watch, or take a prolonged glance at our notifications widget. With pure audacity we unlock the phone and check our latest messages.

And he’s still talking. Is this guy fucking serious?

Okay, but we’re still diplomatic so let’s allow them to come to the end of themselves by their own realization. This is, after all, the passive aggressive playbook.

The Book

Perhaps we have a book on hand. Perhaps reading this book in front of the time vampire will let him know that the time has come to abandon abusing his speaking privilege.

Perhaps they will take the hint when I drown myself in Walden’s Pond.

But, it fails. Our friend is so absorbed in their story, so focused on raining horse shit on us, that their persistence pesters our patience.

Reading is not possible.

All subtle, yet assertively passive aggressive, non-verbal attempts at communication have failed.

We may be right to wonder about the psychological state of our friend at this point. Are they on the spectrum? Are they high? Can they see me? Perhaps their vision is similar to the theoretical vision of a Tyrannosaur: They can’t see you if you don’t move? But, I thought I did move!

With diplomatic non-verbal dialogue disbanded, it is time to exercise defcon 1: Nuclear. It’s simple:

Option A: Leave. “James, I have to go. It’s been a pleasure. See you later.”

Option B: Intervene: “James, you have spoken uninterrupted for three hours. My patience is through. Can we enjoy silence together? That, after all, is a true sign of friendship. Let’s try it.”

Option C: Remember to not be like James. The lesson:

The more you talk, the less people listen

We can learn to not be like James and abuse our speaking privilege. It is difficult to use fewer, better words.

Yes, and it depends on how interesting you are. I will watch all 2 hours of a Star Wars movie, or listen to Jordan Peterson lecture on psychology until my eyes turn red; However, I will not spend any time watching anything Kardashian related, unless it’s through the South Park lens.

Being nice to people who suck our time is not nice to ourselves, or to the other person. We can always gracefully walk away.

To be like James, or not to be. 

Is the content of the conversation interesting to me? Is this person open to conversation, or do they prefer  to dump their drama on others without reciprocity? Not that I want to share my drama – I save it for my mama – but I do prefer it if the person has an open mind; They’re willing to be wrong. They’re willing to take ownership of their boring story. And that’s where our courage as emphatic listeners comes in.

There are lecturers who I will pay to listen to speak for many hours. There are others who I can’t tolerate listening to for more than a few seconds.

When we speak we are using one of our most powerful tools: Words. The words we choose create thoughts and feelings in ourselves and our listeners. And here’s the thing: The best speakers listen to their audience. Listening to the audience, whether a person of 1 or 100, allows the speaker to apply timing to their delivery, or to change the pacing of the story. Or, to stop telling that awful story altogether, end it gracefully, and move on.

The best speakers are the best listeners are the best writers are the best friends.

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