How to Stop Time-Suckers
By Marion Winik
They talk your ear off, oblivious to your busy schedule. You'd do anything
to shut them up, but how? These three easy steps will help you handle any
motormouth so that you can get on with your day.
Time is precious, as they say — which is why it's so incredibly
frustrating when someone comes along and nonchalantly siphons it out of your
day. We're talking about the way-too-chatty friend, relative, coworker,
or acquaintance who latches on to you when you bump into her at the
supermarket, holds you hostage on the phone (even when you've got a deadline at
work), or unexpectedly drops by for a visit. The more she blathers on, the
greater your desperation grows. Is there a way to stop her without being rude?
Is it possible to prevent this from happening in the future and preserve
your relationship with her? Yes, yes, and yes. Here's how.
STEP 1: Put her on pause.
Stopping this person's monologue is your first order of business. To handle
that sensitive task diplomatically:
- Gently but firmly interrupt her. When you're face-to-face, you can force a
pause by holding up a finger or simply opening your mouth to give the signal
that you're going to break in. On the phone, you may have to raise your voice
slightly to get the conversational upper hand. Start with "Excuse
me..." or "Okay..." or "You know...."
- Immediately follow with something positive. That unexpected interruption
may throw her a bit, so be sure to soothe her with a few kind words: "It's
great to hear from you..." or "I'm so glad that you stopped
- Then deliver the excuse. "But I only have about five minutes."
"I'm expecting a call that I really have to take." "I was just
putting Caitlyn to bed." "I've got something burning on the stove."
"I'm heading out for an appointment." Your excuse should have some
basis in fact, if possible, since truth rolls off the tongue more easily. And
remember that "I've got a busy day/evening" is hardly ever an outright
You've Got Mail. Sigh.
When you're going back and forth, messaging or e-mailing with someone who
doesn't seem to want to end the exchange, close things down by sending an
unmistakably final salutation, suggests Maria Bailey of bluesuitmom.com, a site
devoted to time-management strategies for working mothers. Try one of
- Have a good day.
- I'll get back to you soon.
- Okay, that covers it. I'm signing off now.
- Sounds great. No need to reply.
When people forward you jokes, videos, and chain letters, you can always
delete them, of course. If you don't want to receive virtual inbox cloggers at
all, however, reply with something like, "Hey, I want to be excited when I
see your name — but when you send me forwards like these, I just delete them,
so I'll never know if you're sending a personal message." That should stop
even the most avid chain e-mailer.
Could you use some help with a tough conversation? Tell us about
it. Send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Originally published on: April 22, 2008
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