Real Simple’s Modern Manners columnist answers a question from Annabel Connor of Washington, D.C.
Credit: Miki Duisterhof

Q: How do you deal with people who dominate the conversation at book club with personal anecdotes that have nothing to do with the book or are only vaguely related to the subject at hand?
Annabel Connor
Washington, D.C.
A: Ahhh, the Talkers―I know those people. They’re not just at your book club. The Talkers can pop up at any gathering, whether it’s professional, personal, or school- or apartment-building related. Sometimes they’re people with a lot to say but not enough other outlets (a.k.a. friends) through which to channel their thoughts. So a group discussion provides the perfect captive audience for their pent-up inner dialogue. But more often―and this might sound surprising―the Talkers are just insecure. I’ve found that the people who talk the most at meetings, without any sense of yielding the floor, are talking out of nervousness or a need to be heard. Now, obviously, you can’t build up someone’s self-esteem in the course of a book-club meeting―nor is it your responsibility. But rather than trying to silence or steamroll the Talker, make her feel heard. Use her comment as a jumping-off point for your own, or refer to something she said. Once the Talker feels acknowledged, she may be more at ease―and better able to zip her lips for two seconds and hear what others have to say.


—Julie Rottenberg