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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Miss Manners: Am I too talkative? How can I tell?

Judith Martin Universal Uclick

DEAR MISS MANNERS: How can one know if she is talking too much or being talkative? I like to think I’m funny and engaging, that I tell a good story and am an entertaining guest and hostess.

However, at Thanksgiving dinner, my husband said I was carrying on a monologue. I thought I was aware enough of being long-winded to cut myself off, but perhaps the champagne (which wasn’t cut off) blurred my judgment.

Therefore, would you please advise me how to judge whether I’m entertaining people with my stories, or if I’m becoming a bore? A good tip on how to engage other guests would also be useful. Further, if you could include a kind way for my husband to let me know I’m going on too long, I would pass that on to him.

Have I gone on too long again?

GENTLE READER: No, Miss Manners is still giving you rapt attention. Face to face, you would be able to see the bright gaze she has fixed on you.

But there are indeed ways of gauging your listeners’ limits. Faces resting gently in plates are a good sign that you have gone on too long, as are downcast eyes, which nowadays probably indicate the presence of an electronic device under the napkin. In social settings, an appreciative audience usually makes encouraging noises and nods, so silence and immobility are also signs.

To re-engage people at that point, halt the story and offer others a turn by saying something vaguely relevant, such as, “Everyone must have these embarrassing moments,” or “And how did you spend your vacation?”

Unless you hear a chorus of “But wait, what happened to you then?” you may consider that you have yielded the floor, and that no one has noticed that your story wasn’t finished.

But even without this problem, every couple needs a Meaningful Look. Generally, it is a fixed, unblinking stare, accompanied by an upturning of the mouth intended to disguise its real meaning. And that can be anything from “You should probably wind this up” to “Didn’t you tell me that we were going to keep that a secret?” to “Please, can we go home now before I keel over?”