Mrs. Ditter, How do you deal with socially inept people who zero in on you at parties, church coffee hours and other events? They mistake my politeness for eagerness to listen to excruciatingly long monologues on software installations, cute things their cats did, etc. I finally cut them off or simply walk away in mid-sentence, but it feels incredibly rude. -- Trying to Escape
Hmm. We've all been there on this one, haven't we? Once in a while, we're even the person blathering on (oh, yes you DID hold that nice lady captive last Sunday. I saw you!).
Here are a few things to try when you're conversationally trapped:
1. Engage your compassion gene. "This counts as my good deed for the day. Am I looking as if I'm listening? God, I hope she shuts up soon."
2. Engage your compassion gene even more forcefully. I always think that behind every face, there's something eternal going on. The late John O'Donahue said that, and he was a wise man, so pay attention. While you're reciting your "Oh, poor me, I'm stuck with this boring old cow" mantra, remember that This Boring Old Cow may actually have something interesting to say. And even if he or she doesn't--especially even if they don't!--you may want to dig deep and just listen to them. You could even try to engage them in a real conversation, unless you're afraid your head will explode from the effort.
3. Okay, enough of that compassion crap. You've reached your limit, and you say, "I'd love to talk more, but I was hoping to connect with (insert name of someone else at the event), so I'll let you go now." And you walk away. Preferably in the direction of the person you just referenced.
Thanks for trusting me with your question. And, as always, if you have a question, leave it in the comments at the end of this post.