I have a friend who's pretty much a genius when it comes to handling the situation you describe. When we're at lunch and someone starts monopolizing the conversation, this friend will step up and politely take charge. Here's what she does: She'll make a validating statement such as, "That's interesting!" Then she'll turn to someone else at the table and ask, "So, what do YOU think?" This technique which she makes look effortless because she's pretty much a genius brings other people into the conversation, as well.
Maybe you can try a version of this with your own Madame Talks-a-Lot. It's worth a try and I'm guessing the rest of your relations will applaud your efforts.
Dear Ann Cannon • As a teacher of middle-school students for the past eight years, what should I say to a parent who claims I don't understand her child because I do not have children of my own?
Dear Livid • Don't go there with her. When you talk to this mother, keep the focus on what you've observed as a professional educator about her child in the classroom (I'm assuming there's a problem or the mother wouldn't have made the comment). Whether you, the teacher, have children of your own is none of her business and it's also not particularly relevant, although she wants to believe it is. It's tempting for parents to explain away a kid's troublesome behavior by blaming somebody or something else.
The irony, of course, is that because teachers deal with so many different students, they may have a broader understanding of children than parents do at times especially when it comes to kids in a group setting. Meanwhile, try to have an open mind when talking to this mother, but do not be afraid to hold your ground.
Dear Ann Cannon • Like you, I am a dog lover. I have two of my own. But I am annoyed with a neighbor of mine who walks her dog off leash through our city neighborhood and allows the dog to poop in my yard without cleaning up after it. What should I do?
Not in my front yard!
Dear Not • Well, you could put one of those signs in your front yard that tells dogs to take their business someplace else. But that would only egg my dogs on. They'd probably toilet paper your house and then prank call you every night for a week because they hate it when people tell them what to do. They're such teenagers that way!
Actually, a sign might increase your neighbor's awareness of the problem and silently shame her into cleaning up after her dog. If that doesn't work, you can either approach her in a friendly fashion about the problem or resign yourself to cleaning up the messes.
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