Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No I Am Not Going To Stop Talking Even Though You Are Talking

So what do you do when a client persistently, obliviously, ignorantly talks all over you at business meetings?

I mean what is the correct etiquette that one should follow? Is grabbing someone by the scruff off their neck and shaking them so hard their blood separates into its component parts socially acceptable? Is it de rigeur to pinch their nose hard and pull their head down to within an inch of the tabletop and quietly mutter death-threats in a voice not unlike Robert De Niro in any of his films?

I need to know because I swear to God I am going to pop a vein if I attempt to suppress my anger any longer.

I think what annoys me most is that, in the moment, I allow it to happen. I can’t seem to raise my voice to battle theirs. I mean, I know I can do it. I know I can summon up the volume; my lungs have the capacity. It’s just that – in the moment – that response seems lost to me. I keep talking. Starting, restarting, restarting, restarting until finally Little Miss Gob-Jockey finally grinds her tongue to a halt. Then I get to speak. Only what I have said doesn’t seem to be heard or acknowledged or valued because the Uber-tongue starts up yet again exactly where it left off.

My only consolation is that it isn’t just me who has this problem. It’s not personal. I’m not an isolated case.

But it feels personal when it happens. Damned personal.

Time was, years ago, I was quite a placid character. An easy-going guy. Wasn’t really in touch with my anger, all that jazz. But over recent years, me and my anger, we’ve started becoming better acquainted. We’re not leaving it so long between phone calls if you get my meaning. The satellite link up is experiencing less and less delay.

It used to be that I’d get talked over by Be’elzeblah and the anger would hit me a couple of hours later. There’d be a bit of a drag to it.

Now though we’re talking ten minutes max.

It’s catching up with the moment. And you can see what’s going to happen, can’t you? Soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of my life my anger is going to be there right on the button.

And I need to know what is the most socially acceptable way of reacting. How far can I push the anger envelope and not have myself carted off to an anger management course?

Because part of me would just like to mutter “blah blah blah blah blah” continuously, unendingly... starting off real soft and low and slowly building to a crescendo that has everyone in the meeting, one by one, falling silent and looking my way. Another part of me would just like to be working class and just slam my palm down onto the tabletop and exclaim “fer fook’s sake, woman, will you please just shut yer fooking trap and let me fooking speak?” You know, the direct approach?

But there is another part of me – slightly unhinged with all this repressed fury – that just wants to scream “shut up shut up shut up shut up” into this person’s face and maybe spit a little bit into her mouth. ‘Cos – and this might come as a surprise to some of you – this situation is really starting to get on my goat.

Hey? Are you even listening to me?

Oi! Focus dagnammit! This is important!



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42 comments:

Nota Bene said...

I was typing up my own blog whilst I read yours....

Steve said...

Nota Bene: BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH!

Kelloggsville said...

just keep on restarting your sentances with "as I was saying" or "I would like to finish what I was saying", you may find in the end you have to say "Could I finish without interuption". You can understand how people go into work with guns and just shoot the shit out of everyone can't you. I recall watching two very upset girls on the news after the New Zealand earthquake. They were crying about how their collegues were in the collapsed building. I was thinking "crying?! wtf?!" I would not have been very upset! : isn't that awful!

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: awful? If I'd had some kind of prescience of when those quakes were going to occur I would have spent every last penny of my savings to ship some of my lot out there.

Janete Cabral said...

I have always avoided confrontation. Mostly because i am fairly calm, level headed and laid back person. But very occasionally something really upsets me and if I show it those who know me hardly recognise me. So I suppress it yet again. Happened at work with gossip only a couple of weeks ago... I was so upset I even wrote a resignation letter although I kept it. Afterwards I felt so miserable for letting something upset me that much....What can you do ?

Steve said...

Janete: I've been a quiet, calm person for years... but over the last few I've slowly lost the ability to remain so. I can see that it's not always a bad thing. Sometimes it's better to let rip and let it out rather than keeping it bottled up... but work environments are strange places. You have to do it appropriately and in a manner that doesn't cut off your own nose. Gossip is always nasty and tasteless... sadly it exists wherever people are. Ignoring it isn't always easy. I hope that one day, should you go ahead and resign, you have something much better lined up to go to. :-)

Martin Lower said...

You could always try and take the high ground. When you're interrupted, stop speaking until the other person stops. Then look them in the eye, and say "Have you finished?" Then continue; if you're interrupted again, repeat the process. This makes you appear calm and reasonable.
If this doesn't work, then screaming "shut up" repeatedly sounds a lot of fun!

Steve said...

Martin: and therein lies the nub of my dilemma. Appear calm, reasonable and mature... or have a hell of a lot of fun. It's the old lettuce versus chips argument, isn't it?

With me, it's going to be chips every time.

the fly in the web said...

Suggest to the bod running your meetings that there is a time limit on contributions....like a chess clock....you put it as if this will force the silent to cough up some gem of wisdom related to the subject, in succinct fashion, while meaning that gobshite has only the same time as others..
Once that rule in place, you then call attention to breaches of it.

Mark you, with the spineless bunch of managers you have to deal with you may have to go to plan B...

Call alternative meeting without gobshite for the same time and produce a document with the results.

When it happened to me in my younger days I was at first upset...why is no one playing the game?...and felt put down by it, so after that I used to say loudly
'Since you apparently do not require any participation from me I cannot imagine why you asked me to come to this meeting. I shall get on with some work in my room.'
And walk out.

Steve said...

The fly in the web: alas, I am talking about the person "running" the meeting. Which makes it all much worse. Control freakism is, I am sure, at the heart of it. But I like your plan B. I like your plan B very much. But also the 'if you do not require my input I may as well put my time to better use elsewhere" approach.

libby said...

OOhh Steve...careful....think about the effing and jeffing I get myself into now and again...and always regret because I have LET idiots make me lose control......I think the fly in the web has a good idea......stay calm and accept that this person will shut the fuck up at some point and you can have your say....

Steve said...

Libby: aw, you spoilsport; I've gone and bought a baseball bat and everything!

Nana Go-Go said...

I often find that the words `shut the f*** up` work wonders. (I kid you not, I wrote that before I read Lib`s response! - great minds, eh?).

Steve said...

Nana Go-Go: there is something very Shakespearian about "shut the fuck up" I will agree though in Will's day it no doubt manifested itself as "shut thee the fuck up". To the point and effective. I may give it a go when I feel a thesp moment upon me.

Bish Bosh Bash said...

Being an impassioned member of the ‘loathe anyone who persistently talks over me while I'm trying to state my case’ resistance movement my whole life, in years past I would have fired a first volley by simply and firmly stating “kindly let me finish please, I have a right to a voice ‘and’ a right to be heard in full”. Failing that I’d have to go with Fly’s plan ‘B’. Although the one I always really wanted to do (and still do) is pull my i-phone or laptop out with a couple of those super noisy trick mini speakers attached and wham this particular track back to him at max on the old volume! Guarantee it would get his full & undivided attention, as well as shut him the f**k up. Whether he’d ever get the irony in the Stalinist message part too, remains to be seen.

I did let loose the whole gaseous contents of my rummy tum tum once, in a similar talkathon chaired meeting, at a detestable jerk of a guy, so blinded by his own arrogance and pompous self importance, that he couldn’t bare to listen to anyone else speak for more than a scant couple of seconds – so, on the final day in question, after reaching my ceiling of endurance with him and his whole modus operandi, I thought – fuckit – leant back, put both feet apart on the conference table, and let loose the most heroically, epic, longest drawn out fart, I’ve ever managed to muster. The silence that followed was.. ‘special’. His frozen expression was… ‘even more special’. I left the room to muted howls of scarcely contained laughter and one month later, went into business for myself. Years later I sent him a nice thank you card for that incident, though I never received a reply.

The Sagittarian said...

Ah yes, I have a colleague who does this. We all know it and we all get annoyed by it...what do we do? Let him get away with it mostly altho' from time to time I do take the Martin Lowther approach which works really well.
Or saying loudly "Oh had you stopped listening to me, cos I hadn't finsihed talking" can work...

The Sagittarian said...

Or just walk away. Completely turn around and walk off.

Vicky said...

I have done the "speak to the hand" to a work collegue and I managed to get finished what I was saying LOL

Being Me said...

My method, if it's something that happens persistently, is to take the path of Genuine Awe. A bit of Martin Lower's suggestion mixed with as much genuine fascination as you can muster - position yourself in here eyeline and do a bit of wide-eyed, impressed "Woww... you're really interrupting me again? Wow! That is just astounding." Interspersed with the occasional "are you finished"s and, hey, seeing as you've bought the bat already, there'd be no harm in swinging that idly as you do so. Creates for a suspenseful atmosphere.

Enjoy! Sounds FUN. :-/

English Rider said...

Oh! I'm sorry. Did I wear my invisible shirt today, by mistake?

Alternatively, and with hand movements: "DING! DING! DING! TIME's UP! IT's MY TURN!"

Steve said...

Bish Bosh Bash: you got style, you got taste, you just put a smile upon my face; I'm taking you for a curry should we ever meet one day.

Amanda: oooh... I like that. Nice 'n' barbed. I'll do the walking off afterward.

Vicky: ah the old classics are always best!

Being Me: gosh tarn it! Another humdinger. How the heck am I supposed to choose. Still, given how often it happens there is scope to try the lot...

English Rider: oh that's definitely going onto the list.

Gorilla Bananas said...

This problem has been dealt with many times in movies.

In 'Things to do in Denver when you're dead' the response was "Will you shut the fuck up for eleven seconds?"

In 'Dirty Harry' the response was: "Do you feel lucky, punk?"

Actually, that may have been the response to a different question.

John Gray said...

I had the same problem once

I stopped the meeting and said in aloud and firm voice

"can you please stop doing that it is rude"

did it work

for one meeting it did
and at least I got a round of applause!

mememmememme

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: question shmestion. I'm with Dirty Harry.

John: measured and to the point. Perfect.

About Last Weekend said...

Its been so long since I worked properly (10 years!) that I am in the unemployable wilderness and cannot offer any decent advice. I can say that my kids do this and I just yell even louder. Can be fun sometimes!

Anonymous said...

I know what to do:

One excuses oneself, leaves the room, closes the door behind oneself.
Then, while standing directly behind the closed door outside the room, one summons the loudest voice one can, and shouts the vilest curses for a minute or so, while interspersing it with "why?", "why, oh, why?", "oh, god, why?", "why can't the f@cker just f@cking shut up for one f@cking second?".
One then re-enters the room, apologizing profusely for needing to leave the room so suddenly to deal with a slight emergency.
The meeting will then continue in a polite fashion while you pretend not to have done anything untoward and the others pretend not to have heard you doing it.

Steve said...

About Last Weekend: 10 years since you last worked properly? I truly envy you.

Anonymous: ooh... you're good; you've done this before, haven't you?

Rol said...

I'd go with "shut up shut up shut up". It always worked for me.

(Hmm, why did they fire me again?)

Steve said...

Rol: "keep talking, keep talking, keep talking..."

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden said...

I'm a bit like About Last Weekend - don't do real work - but the approach offered by Martin Lower, used to work on me! Though the man who used it with icy effectiveness was my husband, and well marriage, that's a whole different mine-field...

Steve said...

Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden: indeed my wife has permission to talk over me whenever she likes without complaint. I find it is an arrangement that works well.

Keith said...

I find a sturdy plank of 2'' x 4'' does wonders, when it is swinging in the direction of the aforementioned person's teeth.

Too violent ?

Steve said...

Keith: possibly... but it's my favourite form of DIY.

Mark said...

I used to know someone like that who worked for an advertising agency, and we were the darn client. We decided it would be fair recompense to put her down a bit - so my colleague went onto the meeting room and asked her - 'could you run round the shops and but me some cigarettes - there's a god girl'

Her face - perfect.

Steve said...

Mark: now that's a class response...

Fran said...

Could you mime yourself slitting your own throat? It works for me with my family members who shall remain nameless who talk about Latin names for plants or railways.

Steve said...

Fran: I have no doubt that some would say why mime when I could do it for real?

Heather said...

I would go for the very grown up and sensible method of jumping up and down on the spot screaming 'shut up shut up shut up shut up, will you just shut the fuck up!'

There's probably a reason I'm unemployed.

Steve said...

Heather: let's hope there's not a reason that I'm about to be...

blackwatertown said...

As it is a client, I'm presuming you want to keep them a little but sweet to ensure the transfer of cash from their pocket to yours.
So - you could either do that talking very quietly thing - or even just mouth words - so they have pipe down to have a clue what you're talking about. It works with children a lot.
Or - more deviously, have a colleague present so you can turn to them and play the same trick - only this time the client will feel left out from some secret communication and will likely demand to hear.
If you're not that bothered about the contract you could accidentally on purpose spill something on them and then accidentally thump them as you rush to help.

London City Mum said...

Of course, you could do a 'Tom' รก la Apprentice and just put your hand up as an indication that you wish to speak.

LCM x

Steve said...

LCM: you're hired!