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Dealing with Chatty Cathys

I recently moved to a new barn. Somehow it has THREE overly chatty boarders who will talk my ear off for 25 minutes without taking a pause, asking me any questions, or giving me a chance to extract myself from the one-sided conversation. They will go on and on about themselves and their horses and do not seem to have the awareness that a conversation should be a two-way street. Or worse, they go on about my horse and offering unsolicited advice without even knowing my horse or his history. My old barn had many more boarders but no one was like this!

Anyway, as a working parent of a young child, I have to keep my barn visits succinct. I’m all for having a casual chat while grooming or while hand grazing after a ride, but I don’t have time or desire to extend my barn time by 25 minutes or more just let someone talk about themselves.

My question is, how do I extract myself from these conversations politely without causing offense at this small barn? Especially when there is no chance for me to interject, and seemingly very few appropriate places to interrupt the Chatty Cathy’s? Have you had to deal with people like this at your barn? I don’t want to get on anyone’s bad side, especially as one of the Chatty Cathy’s strikes me as someone who could be difficult to deal with if she dislikes a person.

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Ear buds! You don’t have to actually play anything through them. Just keep them visible, and don’t “hear” those people.

Rebecca

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So these people are brushed off by everyone, they are used to it. When you brush them off they will not be surprised. Just keep moving. Don’t invite conversation. Move with purpose. Earbuds are a good idea too. I am busy enough at the barn that I don’t have time to chew the fat every day even with people I like. Once you have someone identified as a waste of time, just come in prepared to say nice day, isn’t it? and not engage. Just keep moving.

We do our tacking up in the stall and do self care so we can always start mucking the run out or go upstairs to toss hay to break off an interaction.

Usually such folks will have a hook comment, something you react too, then they start running off about themselves. Don’t get drawn in by their conversation starter. Just say wow interesting and keep moving.

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Having spent years dealing with a family member who is one of the most one of the most dominating talkers of all time … in terms of going on for literally hours, jumping subjects, etc. & so on … And from a culture where conversation and politeness are everything …

First and foremost, you have to consider yourself the most important person in the conversation, even though the other party does not. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. It’s just the attitude you need to have.

You must interrupt, talk over, cheerfully and with a smile. Firmly and assertively, smiling. “Sorry to interrupt!” Smiling while setting limits can smooth over many things.

Magic words and phrases: “Later.” “Hold that thought.” “I have to get on with this now, but let’s talk more later.” “I have to go because I’m late, but maybe we can talk later.” You aren’t saying “no”, you aren’t openly rejecting, but you are freeing yourself to walk away.

You must physically move away from them. Smiling. This. Is. Critical. You must turn your back while smiling, you must walk away, smiling. Even if they are still talking. You already told them you have to move away and we’ll talk later. Your personal location is everything – you have to move out of their vocal reach.

Do not worry about their feelings. Are they worried about yours? Circle one: Yes. No.

You can come back to them, or not. There is no actual ‘later’ to any of these social niceties. Also you can invent whatever you claim is calling you away (it should be vague). You just have to go, to maintain the importance of your needs, as well as theirs.

To help yourself with the mindset, consider that while the chatty party may not be openly rude, nonetheless they are imposing, they are rudely ignoring your needs and time.

In fact, they are meeting their own needs at the expense of yours. Make sense? One of you is getting their needs met, the other is not (you). And I personally believe that they know it, and don’t care about your situation, just their own. Anyway, whatever is the truth, it can help steel your backbone to think so.

You. Must. Behave in ways that would be considered “rude” in other more ‘normal’ contexts, but it’s ok because they are being rude by treating your time and attention as if theirs matters and yours doesn’t.

Not by speaking to them in a rude way (not necessary), but by firmly imposing boundaries in the most polite and neutral way possible.

“Hold that thought, I need to get something from the tack room and I’ll be right back.” (Take as long as you can to come back. They might leave! But they will get it that you aren’t enthralled by their conversation.)

Same for when you are going and not coming back. “Sorry to interrupt!” Talk right over them, loud-ishly to be heard, in an assertive tone. “I’ve got to get on with my ride now. Let’s talk again later!” Later = Never.

Turn and WALK AWAY with your back to them to retrieve (or put away) your item (or ride your horse, or go home), AS THEY KEEP TALKING. DO NOT LOOK BACK AT THEM. KEEP GOING AND DO YOUR THING. They try to impede you from getting on with your tasks by not offering a conversation opener to do so? Well they can stand there and wait on you, if it’s that important.

You can also physically re-route your locations to avoid them and avoid discomfort, if it comes to that. Tack up at your trailer, if you have one, or somewhere with no foot traffic. Things like that. I’ve got grooming stuff organized very portably so that I can do stuff anywhere.

If you are thinking that you setting boundaries will be hard, because they are a friend – No, they are not a great friend. Friends don’t treat each other with such a lack of respect and consideration. It’s not your job to prop up a friendship that doesn’t have as much consideration for you as you have for them. That’s a friend you can live without, if it comes to it.

Be a bit selfish about your feelings – what’s the downside to you to setting boundaries and freeing yourself of their demands on your time? Probably - none? All upside, in fact?

Be consistent. Always. This sets expectations for them. They need clear expectations since they don’t pick up on other people’s limits, and likely don’t want to unintentionally burn bridges. They are likely to become much more respectful if they do want to maintain your friendship. As well as you maintaining theirs.

We probably all have a friend or family member who is great at enforcing boundaries. Who calls things for what they are. Who isn’t worried about what others think of them. Said friend or family member is your role model for these situations. :slight_smile:

You can care about a friend or family member who is difficult. Someone who is imposing, leaving you in a position of enforcing boundaries. And still look after yourself, first. In fact, the relationship will probably be a better one once you do set some limits.

Good luck! I hope this helps, at least a little.

[I developed these thoughts for other family members who don’t even want to talk with a particularly dominating talker. Because what was supposed to be a nice 30 minute chat could easily turn into 3 hours, and very one-sided. People didn’t know how to free themselves! I spent the most time with that person, and had to figure it out.]

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Accept that you will have to interrupt. But normal rules of polite conversation don’t apply here (if they did, you would not be stuck in a one-sided conversation for 25 minutes) so try to let go of those expectations.

“It was really nice to talk with you! Have a great rest of your day!” as you get your horse into the arena. By all means let them go (if you can bear it) while you groom, tack up, get ready, but if you are ready to go - then go! Be super warm, be friendly, be gracious (even if it shouldn’t be on you to do any of these things; but doing so will mitigate risk of blowback). If you’re really good, you can affect a facsimile of regret: “I’m so sorry but I’m really tight for time, it was lovely to hear from you today! I hope you have a great afternoon!”

I’m not a really chatty person. I’ve also fallen out of the habit, I’ve spent the last few years at a barn where I was nearly always the only one out. I have fallen out of the habit of Barn Socializing so it’s been eye-opening to come back into having to navigate socializing with people who are absolutely lovely (in their own way) but accidentally monopolize my time. The above have so far worked really well for me, but I also would mention that I really love @OverandOnward’s recommendations and will be diligently borrowing them for myself as well.

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I think a simple “excuse me but I’m (insert “reason,” like 'I’m running late, ‘I have to go,’ ‘time to ride,’ ‘see you later’)”, said in OverandOnward’s slightly raised voice and with Edre’s cheerful demeanor, as you leave their presence is plenty.

If they accost you while you’re doing something you want to stay there doing, just do not stay turned toward them, respond with vague "uh-huh"s and pay them as little attention as you think you can get away with. Don’t stop working or whatever you’d be doing without their presence (or make up something to do), and try to not reward their bad behavior. And it is bad behavior.

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All very good advice! I dealt with a couple of these people when I worked in an insurance office, it was a nightmare. Usually they start asking a simple questione to hook you, “today the weather is lovely, isn’t it?” you politely replay and bam, they got you Lol
Don’t replay, just smile, nodd and walk away (I couldn’t walk, one was sitting right in front of me, I usually faked a phone call or an urgent email!). You don’t have to be polite, they are not, and they will find soon another victim

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I have always been paralyzed by these people (because most of us of an age have been taught to be overly polite to the point that our own self worth suffers) until a year or so ago when I realized I don’t have to wait for an appropriate moment and there is zero need to be polite.

So my advice, which to me is surprising in that I did not lose this person as a barn friend and they did actually gain some insight into their own behaviour and they continue to do their best to moderate it, WALK AWAY. Go do the next thing on your list. Do not offer apologies. Do not slink away sheepishly. Walk away with the purpose of getting away.

When you come back you may be surprised to find they happily pick up their stream of consciousness blabbering right where they left off. That’s ok. Grunt a couple of uh huhs if you must and then when you’re ready to do your next thing, just walk away again.

They will not care. Do it often enough and their behaviour will start to modify (possibly) and more importantly, you will feel more comfortable with carrying on with your day.

Do not let these people continue to abuse your good nature.

One more tip. If they do it while you’re riding - ear buds or a speaker for you to drown them out/give you an excuse to not be able to hear them. If they try harder - I can’t hear you. I’m concentrating on my riding.

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I break this off with a “hey, I’m tight on time today, so we’ve got to walk and talk” and then I just keep going as if they’re not even talking. I take my horse out, I start grooming, I pick stalls - I can’t hear half of what they’re saying, and what I do hear I pretend not to so the conversation fizzles out. If they ask a question I go “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear your question because I was focused on what I was doing” etc.

Just “walk and talk” until they leave or you’re doing something where talking isn’t even possible, like riding.

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I am hard of hearing, chatty people tend to give up after having to keep repeating what they say and some times I just don’t understand what they are trying to say.

At first they don’t care, they are talking to hear themselves, but being interrupted to keep repeating ends being annoying to them, they lose their stream of consciousness that drives their senseless blabber and need to think too hard to regain it when interrupted.
Thinking is hard work when you have your mind on idle chatter and they give up, go find another victim.

Try acting hard of hearing, may work for you.

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As a former Chatty Cathy I can tell you that there isn’t a polite way of extricating yourself without causing offense.

We do it because we are needy and crave validation.

We are starved for attention.

Having said this, I acknowledge that it isn’t your job to meet the need.

If it helps, think of us as emotionally stunted and socially inept. We are so needy we can’t read the room, so to speak. Social cues and micro expressions are missed.

Don’t make eye contact and don’t engage.
If approached, or accosted by Ms. Chatty hold up your hand and use your words.

“I don’t have time to talk.” and keep on walking.

Will Ms. Chatty be offended?
Yes. Yes she will.

She may complain to you with other boarders but chances are, she’s managed to alienate everyone in the barn anyway.

If Ms. Chatty wants to coach from the sidelines tell your BM / BO.
Unless you specifically solicited their advice, which you probably haven’t, it’s not cool.

BM / BO should lay down the law about this.
No coaching unless rider is in a lesson. Full stop.

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I have a lot of trouble not paying attention to these people, but have actually done it a few times.

My brother and I were at a local rodeo when accosted by a Chatty Carl, a very socially inept college classmate of mine. After a few minutes, I actually walked away. My brother was astonished at my behavior. “He’s still talking!”

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Rebecca offers the easiest solution, and I would build on that to suggest that rather than earbuds, get a pair of over-the-ear headphones. Try a Goodwill store if you don’t want to spend money for a good set.
You don’t really have to plug them in to anything, just make it look like they are live, and when the annoying presence arrives just don’t hear them. If they are insistent, bare one ear and say “What?!?” in a semi-annoyed voice. Whatever they come back with, say “Oh, that’s nice.”, and cover your ear again. Continue to not hear them.
They will be faced with a choice to 1)ramble on w/o a listener, 2)find someotherbody to pester, or 3)knock your headphones off. 1 and 2 are easy wins, 3 at least sets the parameters for future interactions with this individual. Hit 'em with some fly spray or something :-D.

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One bud, in ear… And pretend you’re having a conversation on your phone via the bud.

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I used a timer. I used to work with a couple of chatty Kathy’s. They got 2 minutes. Once my timer goes off the conversation was done. I would tell them “Nice to chat with you” and move on.

If they asked, I told them I time block everything so I’m not late to my next meeting, call, pick up kid, dinner, etc.

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:+1:

This is magnificent. Suitable for so many situations. Can walk off while they are talking, on that one. I’m having it tattooed on the inside of my arm where I’ll see and remember it. jk (maybe jk!)

:grin:

One other tip — In most cases, it is better not to give specifics about it this other thing that you must go and do. Keep it vague. “I have to go” is enough.

The real point is not the importance of why you most move on. It is that You. Are. Going.

“I’m going to be late, so I’m off!“ Is another powerful mid-sentence walk-away statement, with someone who will just not stop.

These statements will also help to get you off the phone with someone when you really do need to end the call.

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I’ve straight out told the truth to a chatty cathy before- I come here to spend time with my horse and ride, not to be social. If it had been someone I actually liked I would have added but maybe we could get together for dinner one night and chat or something like that.

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I have one of these in my life. The emotionally needy and starved for attention label definitely applies to her.

Like others have said, the first thing you have to do is give up on the idea that you can politely disengage. You can’t. It’s impossible. You must just stop. Stop hearing them, stop responding, and stop trying to be polite. And yes, it’s really, really hard when you’ve had “be polite” drilled into you from birth.

My own dodge is the absent minded professor, which, honestly, isn’t that far from my natural state. :smile: I’m too absorbed in my own Big Thoughts to carry on a conversation.

Lots of good suggestions have been offered. I think different things work for different people so maybe try a few and find one that feels right for you.

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Also do not ever stop what you are doing to listen. Keep doing your thing.

Avoid eye contact at all times. even if you were actually talking to them. This is gives them less of the attention reward.

Don’t face them, don’t look their way when they are talking. For a lot of us, it is polite to make intermittent eye contact. Don’t look at them at all — not because it will slow them down, it won’t, but because it helps you disengage.

Don’t pause in their vicinity. If you give a greeting, don’t look at them when you do it.

The very instant they start trying to engage you, move quickly away with something else to do. Pretend you didn’t think they were talking to you. You can come back if they’ve staked out your grooming spot or something. But keep moving back-and-forth and don’t make eye contact with them while you do it.

So much of managing this behavior is your own physical behavior and reactions. They can’t be what you would normally do as your part of a welcome conversation.

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If you successfully manage your conversation time with them, you are quite likely to drop down their list of preferred conversation targets.

Which goes to show that your value to them is not yourself. They are just using you for their own satisfaction. Don’t overvalue any supposed friendship. Some of those friendships might be genuine, but some won’t be.

There is an old saying that someone “would talk to a post”. That is the emotional value such people often place on the people they talk endlessly to — just another post.

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