People who know me at all understand that I can go back and forth from talkative to silent in an instant. I’m not antisocial, but I also don’t go to a lot of events with lots of people. Often, even in a group environment I choose to be alone. I wasn’t an only child but I was raised as one, and this. will probably always affect how I socialize.
That being said, I am hyperaware of body language, social cues and other telltale signs of how to navigate through a conversation, and I know when to shut up. This took a long time to learn and it is also part of why I become quiet sometimes in groups, because I feel like I can no longer comfortably be included in an actual conversation. Some people want to be one hundred percent of an interaction, and it turns into this one-sided bombardment of verbal vomit flooding out of their face. Sometimes it’s literally just someone unloading their baggage on your face, then saying “I have to go now” before you can even respond, like some awkward sexual experience – except it’s harder to avoid. It makes what might have started out as a conversation become awkward, and rather than letting someone else invalidate my thoughts, or make me feel like I have to earn air time in an interaction I don’t really want to be part of, it’s easier to just shut up and go back to playing a game on my phone or even sometimes put my headphones in.
Oh, also – on that note. Are headphones not supposed to be an international sign for “I’m busy” or “don’t talk to me” or other polite ways to preemptively tell someone you want to be left alone? I really thought (well until recently), that this was a well-known cue to leave someone alone. I guess that some people don’t read cues well, or don’t bother because it doesn’t give them enough of a chance to talk at people. That’s really what it is. We have all experienced this, and most of us tolerate it for the sake of civility.
I say – civility be damned.
Hear me out. I am not saying you need to be rude to a coworker/acquaintance/friend. Choosing not to be part of a conversation is your right as a human being, and extricating yourself before they start dousing you in their baggage of the day, week, month, whatever it might be, that is perfectly okay. No need to do anything as extreme as setting yourself on fire, projectile vomiting, or faking a fainting spell. When they stand in front of you, demanding attention while you’re listening to music or playing Candy Crush, glance up with glazed over eyes and go back to what you’re doing. If they still demand attention, do it again. If they’re stupid enough they still don’t get the hint, then perhaps it’s time to get colourful with your language, or get up and walk away. Or you can just keep repeating the dead stare until they understand they should take their verbal diarrhea elsewhere.
I think there is no “appropriate” way to handle a narcissist. I try to avoid being rude, but lately my last nerves have been getting tap-danced on a lot too much, by one specific person who thinks their opinion of everything is the be-all and end-all and always has a busload of grief to unload. It isn’t like I have the option of completely avoiding interaction because they always seem to be there when I walk into a room, talking, talking, talking the ear off of whatever listener(s) there happen to be.
There was a time I could say that I suffered from bad self esteem on a level that meant I would allow people to do this kind of thing to me on a regular basis. I never said no, or walked away from situations like this, because I was scared it would make me a pariah. One day it occurred to me, who cares? I have such a hard time connecting with people as it is, why am I trying to keep inroads to places I don’t want to be? I’m finally comfortable being myself so why the hell should I, in any way, convolute that for some terrible conversation?
These days I choose to stand up for myself out in the big bad (and often stupid) world, because you know what? Nobody else is fucking going to.