One of the cornerstones in the foundation of good manners is Generosity. So I ask you, is there anything more boring and frustrating than being held prisoner by a conversation hog? The CH is a person who is so enthralled by the sound of his voice that he fills the empty space with his never-ending monologue. I recently attended a dinner party and found myself seated next to a man of a certain age who upon first glance carried the bearing of a well-mannered man. His clothing was well-tailored and conservatively worn, his grooming was impeccable and his table manners exquisite. It was only through the course of the meal that his Achilles heel was exposed to the company assembled. He began to tell a story and the story never ended.
Please don’t misunderstand. The sharing of amusing anecdotes is as necessary to the success of a great dinner party as is a fork and a knife. A host expects his guests to entertain, enthrall and amuse his table. In fact, it is the duty of the well-received guest to provide such service. If a guest sat silently at my table without so much as a tiny contribution to the evening’s entertainment, this guest would not be invited back. Now on the other hand, enter CH who drones on and on without letting others at the table participate in the conversation. This particular gentleman – and I am being generous with that term for I particularly appreciated the cut of his jacket – began climbing the Everest of anecdotes and the climb did not end. He meandered from inanity to inanity and barely took a breath in apparent fear of losing his grip. It reminded me of a child who doesn’t want to share his toys with other children and holds them in a tight circle in his hands to prevent the others from enjoying them. This man, CH, opened every side door and — not content to provide a peep through, took his guest through every room then every book on the shelf, every knick on the table. Dull, I tell you, mind-numbingly dull. It was digression at its most egregious, and I wished there had been a pause button on his sleeve for I surely would have pressed it.
Generosity extends to everything we do, especially in conversation. The accomplished raconteur (and by his display of confidence, our CH certainly considered himself one) is one who reads his audience and edits his tale. Even if a storyteller lacks the smallest sense of humor, he should read the expression, the body language, the eyes! of his audience, and if there is even the slightest sense of discomfort or glazing over he should wrap it up and wrap it up quick. I have heard many a host bemoan the greedy CH and vow to banish the villain from future guest lists. Do not a conversation hog be. It is as appalling as falling down drunk, and it is not accepted in civilized company.
SocialPrimer recommends: An Evening with Benjamin Franklin & Thomas Jefferson: Dinner, Wine & Conversation by James M. Gabler