Are You a Conversation Hijacker?

Conversation Hijacker

A hijacker is someone who seizes control of a plane or a car or even a conversation. Are you one of them?

I spotted a hijacker recently. It was at a social gathering of neighbors and friends. It was interesting for me to observe the people there and how they interacted with each other. I noticed one woman in particular, a neighbor of mine. You could never tell by looking at her, but by golly, she was a hijacker!

I have spoken with her in the past and she has expressed her frustrations at making friends. She says no one is interested in her, that nobody cares about her. And she doesn’t understand why.

The problem is that every time you are with her she immediately begins to talk about herself, and it’s nearly always about her health problems. You barely get past “hello” and she will immediately dive right in and start describing her last doctor’s appointment and explain it all in great detail – much more detail than most people want to hear. She’ll go on and on. Frankly, I don’t understand most of what she’s saying. She uses medical terms and concepts that I have no clue what they mean. I try to be a polite person and a good listener and I’ll nod my head and say “really” and “my goodness” once in a while. I wish I really understood what she was saying but I don’t! And honestly it’s very tedious to listen to her and very difficult to get out of the conversation.

The social gathering was a casual dinner at my neighbor’s home. I arrived a little later than most people and as I walked into the dining area I passed this woman. There she was talking to a lady about her latest medical problems. And with her, that’s pretty much the way it always is.

Several weeks ago I was out working in my yard. I had dug a big hole to repair some sprinkler valves. I enjoy that kind of work. It’s kind of fun to work with my hands and get some dirt under my nails. I’m a “fix-it” kind of a guy. So there I was working on my sprinklers when this neighbor walked up to me and began to talk. I didn’t really mind because I could work while she talked. I would nod my head and say “uh-huh” once in a while as she went on.

Well, she talked the whole time I was there working on my sprinklers, which was a good 2 ½ to 3 hours. It really didn’t bother me because I was getting something done, so she could talk all she wanted. She just kept going on and on and on telling me her whole medical history in microscopic detail. I just let her go at it. I knew it would make her feel better and she appreciated having somebody to listen to her.

After talking all this time something interesting happened. She suddenly stopped talking and was silent for a few moments. I think for the first time in a long time she actually ran out of things to say. Then she looked at me and said, “What are you doing there anyway?” I said, “I’m fixing these sprinkler valves.” She then asked me what was wrong with the sprinklers and I told her. For the next few moments she was actually interested in me and what I was doing.

Frankly, it was a remarkable event. It was the first time in all the time that I’ve known her that she has ever asked something about me and was interested in something I was doing. It was so refreshing. What a different feeling it was for me to have her actually interested in me.

Maybe you know somebody like that. Maybe you are somebody like that. Perhaps you are and you don’t even know it! I honestly think this neighbor of mine has no idea how she comes across to people. Maybe someday I will take her aside and we’ll have a little chat and I’ll explain to her the concept that if you want friends and you want people to be interested in you, you have to be interested in them. You’ve got to ask and talk about the other person. That’s the sign of a quality relationship when it’s a two-way conversation.

I encourage you to examine your interactions with others to determine if you are unintentionally hijacking the conversation. If the other person is glancing at their watch or their eyes are glazing over, you might have a problem. Make people glad they talked with you. Be interested in them and attentive to what they have to say. Those are the markings of a healthy, positive conversation.