#755: “Cool story(s), friend. Can someone else talk now?”

Dear Captain and Awkward Army,

My roommate and friend, Pat, is lonely and under socialized. Not always, but often, when Pat enters a conversation, he does not respond to the organic flow of the conversation or attempts to change the subject. Instead, he will wait until you are fished, then be like “Cool. So anyway, about the story I was telling you before…” and then just keep going. Or sometimes Pat will be like, “Hey, remember that thing we were talking about 20 minutes ago?” and then launch into a story.

Pat’s stories are usually pretty mundane, but in a group of people, Pat will make sure any new person to the group hears the pet story of the day, no matter how many times the other group members have heard it already. Pat is always 100% sure these stories are great and fascinating and will hype them up before telling them. He also seems to be oblivious to signs of disinterest and boredom.

Recently, I had a couple of chatty extroverts over and Pat still managed to dominate the conversation for 2 or 3 hours. I had to leave the room a few times to get a break. This was both exhausting and disappointing because I wanted to catch up with my guests and instead I mostly just got tickets to the Pat show. Though in Pat’s defense, I think my guests were entertained and not put off.

Some of my friends think that Pat is self centered, but I think it’s mostly that Pat is oblivious, eager to socialize, and insecure. Based on some of the stories Pat has told me me, he struggles to make friends and maintain friendships, and due to some of the details of these stories, I think this may be a contributor.

I would like to help Pat expand his friend circle (especially to include people who share Pat’s main interest and would find his stories interesting, since I don’t) but I don’t really want to sit down and have an awkward conversation with Pat where I have to explain that he is boring me and making me tired. It’s not a fun conversation for anyone to have, but Pat in particular has an overactive jerk brain and will likely be very hurt.

I would also like to make an effort to spend more time with Pat, but I don’t want to be talked at for an hour and a half while I feign interest in the ins and outs of Pat’s 18th century literature course and how awesome and smarter than everyone else in the class Pat is.

I know Pat doesn’t come off great in this letter, but he really is an awesome person when he can get out of his own way, and I want to help him.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this letter.

Signed: Introvert Hides Under Porch

Dear Introvert:

I’ve got 5 pieces of advice for you.

Expand your own social circle and hang out outside your house & without Pat sometimes. Break the Geek Social Fallacy of “Pat is always invited to things I do & that all my social circles include Pat.” That might mean inviting friends over when you know that Pat will be at Regularly Scheduled Out of House Activity, and it might mean saying “I am having a few friends over for dinner on Thursday and I wanted to let you know so you could make other plans.” Pat: “Are you saying I’m not invited?” You: “I get to see them so seldom and I see you every day, so I’d love the chance to catch up with just them for a few hours. Thank you so much for understanding/I so appreciate you giving us some privacy.” Act as if Pat will do the right thing and as if it is a perfectly reasonable request. It is. You can make social events “come one, come all” or “give me a little space and I’ll do the same for you.” Roommates can hang with their friends in your living room and you can hang out in your room reading a book and without anybody being rude or mean or unfairly excluded. This may go against the established culture of a roommate situation, and it may incur feelings, but that still doesn’t make it unreasonable.

Take care of your own boredom levels. Nope on out when Story Pat gets going.  Don’t be mean, but be blunt. “I’ve heard this story already. Can I get anyone anything from the kitchen?” People who want to hear the story will stay, people who don’t will accept your lifeline. Start a side conversation with someone you are interested in. When other people tell a story, ask them a follow-up question. You do not have to take care of other people’s possible boredom. If a situation like the other night happens, where Pat’s dominance of the conversation ruins your enjoyment of an event, see if you can pull him aside and say, privately, “Pat, I really want to catch up with my friends a little bit, and I can’t do that if you’re going to tell stories all night, especially stories I’ve heard a million times before. Can you ease off? Thank you.” If you can’t interrupt it in the moment, and you are pissed off, it’s okay to tell him you are pissed off the next day. “Pat, I’m glad you had fun last night, and my friends seemed to really like meeting you, but when you told stories for two or three hours straight, it really put a damper on my evening. I wanted to talk to my friends, not hear stories I’d heard a million times, and you were totally oblivious to any attempts to redirect the conversation. Can you try to be more aware?” If you talk about this directly a few times, and he doesn’t change his behavior, try: “Pat, you’re doing the thing again.” “Not cool, Pat.”

Be direct when Pat when he interrupts or ignores YOU. “Pat, did you hear anything I just said? It really bugs me when I tell you something and you immediately launch into your own story without responding.” “Pat, can we change the subject?” “Pat, I can tell you are very excited about this. Can you sum it up for me in three sentences? I don’t have the attention span right now for the full tale.” “Pat, I’m talking to Veronica now. You can tell your story later.“Pat, I’m excited that you had a great day, but I’m not interested in hearing about it right now. Can we catch up tomorrow?” “Pat, sorry you had a rough day, but I am in the middle of something. Talk later?” “Pat, I had a rough day, too. Can you listen to me for a second without immediately following up with your own story?” 

Do not take on the overall project of fixing Pat’s social life and loneliness. When you want Pat along and when you want to hang out with Pat, invite Pat. When you don’t, don’t. Since he is your friend, consider creating a monthly Roommate Hang ritual in place for your own enjoyment and to keep happy relations with him, but not to fix him or help him.

If Pat asks you for advice about being less lonely or commiseration for why he doesn’t seem to be connecting with people, be direct about that, too. “That sucks. What do you think you’ll do about that?” “That sucks. Why do you think that happens?” are classics and put the onus on Pat to figure out a solution. There are scripts like “Pat, have you thought about joining MeetUp group dedicated to (hobby/interest) or taking a class somewhere?” “Pat, sometimes your stories are very entertaining, but I get bored because I’ve heard them before.” “Pat, sometimes you don’t pay attention to whether other people are really listening to your story and you dominate the conversation. Is there a way you’d like to be interrupted when that happens?” that might get the point across.

True Story/Moderator Note: I am an enthusiastic storyteller and a professor and sometimes I am the Pat in the room. I was recently diagnosed with ADHD this year which explains some lifelong difficulties and tendencies I’ve had around interrupting/enthusiastic storytelling/impulsiveness/difficulty taking turns. I want to remind commenters that a) Internet diagnoses are against the site policies and solving the mystery of Why Pat Acts Like Pat is not our purview. I also want to say, from personal experience, that being told, bluntly, “I love you but you drive me nuts when you interrupt or dominate conversations” and/or encountering awkward silences and redirects from friends or embarrassing realizations that Yes, You’re Doing That Thing Again are totally survivable things even if they sting in the moment. Letter Writer, you can set bright boundaries with Pat about how much you can be talked at without being unkind. You taking care of yourself around these interactions is honestly some of the best “help” that you could give him.


128 thoughts on “#755: “Cool story(s), friend. Can someone else talk now?”

  1. No, excluding Pat from events in common areas of his own apartment is not reasonable. He’s paying rent, and he has a right to hang out in his own living room if he wants to. If you want to hang out with your friends, and without Pat, while Pat is going to be home, you should find somewhere else to do it.

    A suggestion to LW’s actual question, which CA only answered with “don’t”: could you invite Pat to social events that don’t lend themselves well to long conversations? Movie nights, some games, or various outdoorsy activities might work well.

      1. I’m not sure I agree here. While I do understand that it would hurt to be asked to make oneself scarce in one’s own house, I also realize that there AREN’T always many other places to hang out.

        Example: last year around Christmas I was visiting my parents, and many of my friends whom I had hardly seen since college were also in town visiting their parents, and so I had several over for a game and catching up night. My dad, who is also very friendly and very social, completely dominated the conversation for most of the evening, and I do think my friends were happy and entertained. But I felt like I got nearly no time to catch up with them myself. And yes, it’s my parents’ house, not mine, so of course he had a right to be in the living room where we were hanging out… but there were also plenty of other rooms he could have been in instead. Sure, we could have all gone up into my childhood bedroom, but that is both small for a large group, and only furnished with things like a bed and dresser, not couches or a game table like the living room where we had been hanging out.

        I ended up talking to him about it and the next time I entertained at their place, he chatted with us for a bit, and then went and watched TV with Mom in another room. And I think I was reasonable to ask this. I realize that a parent is not the same as a roommate, but I think in this case it’s a very similar situation.

        As for places other than my parents’ house to hang out: the weather is not always great for parks and things, and my friends have various different eating restrictions that make it difficult to find a restaurant where we’re all comfortable, and not all of us have the disposable income to go to restaurants, etc. every time we hang out, and also, we can’t actually play board games in places like restaurants either. Not being college students, we also don’t have a campus with lobbies that we can use… I honestly don’t know where else we’d have hung out, other than another friend’s parents’ house. So does that mean no hanging out with old friends without my parents? I hope not.

      2. Good points, all. Lemme elaborate.

        If you’re talking about entertaining people like parents or old high school friends or anybody else the roommate doesn’t know, it’s ABSOLUTELY kosher to request some space. You’re asking for a favor, and it should be phrased as such, but it’s a reasonable favor!

        My response assumed that the LW would be asking Pat to make himself scarce when Pat’s own friends were going to be around. It’s one thing to make plans with mutual buddies and not include Pat. It’s another to say, “Our friends are coming and none of us want you around. Please leave so we can have the fun that will be facilitated by your absence.” A social circle’s plans shouldn’t always have to include everyone in the circle, but making a point of excluding someone seems unnecessarily cruel.

        1. (Not sure why my comment ended up here and not after everyone else on the thread. This is in response to @Good Wolf, @JenniferP, @anamardoll, and @jd, with whom I agree as long as we’re not talking about mutual friends.)

          1. Yeah, the mutual friend thing is iffy. Are they “mutual friends” only in Pat’s mind? Id est, are they “mutual” only because they’re my friends but they’ve come over a bunch because it’s also my house, or are they “mutual” because we are all in the same social circle? If they’re legit mutual, then you should hang out somewhere else when you want to exclude Pat. If they’re *your* friends or family, Pat should not expect to be invited/assume he’s invited (we have a word for that where I come from–barging).

          2. @ Novel deVice: This is true. I’d say that if the friends used to be genuinely mutual and are now distancing themselves from Pat because they find him annoying, it’s still kinder and more appropriate to gather elsewhere. If they’re LW’s friends and Pat assumes that he has a right to the companionship of anyone LW brings to the house, there needs to be a setting of the boundaries.

        2. I see where you’re coming from, but I mostly don’t agree? If I live with A, and we’re both friends with B, it’s absolutely reasonable for me to say ‘hey, I want some one-on-one time hanging out with B.’ This could be at a restaurant or coffee shop or something, but there are many reasons why having it at home might be best (transit/parking, cost, noise level, dietary restrictions etc) and in the common room instead of the bedroom (bedroom could be small/lack seating/table etc). In that case, A can stop by the conversation and say hi, but with the understanding this is the time for *me* to see B. I think it’s reasonable to extend this to a couple people. Obviously inviting the entire social circle over and excluding only Pat is unreasonable, but the Captain said a ‘few’ people (“I am having a few friends over for dinner on Thursday and I wanted to let you know so you could make other plans.”) If LW were to do this constantly it would be shitty, but that’s not what’s being suggested either.

          Honestly it sounds like right now what’s happening is that LW invites people over and then in practice *LW* is the one being excluded: Recently, I had a couple of chatty extroverts over and Pat still managed to dominate the conversation for 2 or 3 hours. I had to leave the room a few times to get a break. This was both exhausting and disappointing because I wanted to catch up with my guests and instead I mostly just got tickets to the Pat show. It doesn’t matter if those people are also friends with Pat or if they’re just friendly with Pat, it’s not fair that the LW invites people over and then mostly doesn’t get to talk to them. In an ideal world Pat will learn better communication skills and how to not dominate a conversation, but that may take a long time, and in the meantime LW absolutely deserves to be able to occasionally invite guests over and have conversations *with* those guests, instead of ‘listen to Pat’s stories for the 23423th time’.

          1. Hrm. If I were in Pat’s shoes, the degree to which I’d find the request reasonable or hurtful would depend on whether I felt I was getting enough time with that friend. Which, I grant you, isn’t the most objective assessment of the request, but unless LW really can’t meet this friend anywhere else, it seems within the reasonable boundaries of kindness to meet the friend somewhere else.

            Totally agree with you about LW being the one to get excluded, though. If Pat doesn’t learn how not to steal LW’s social time after he learns that there’s a problem, I’m less inclined to worry about his feelings over being disinvited from the common space when a mutual friend friend comes over.

          2. Some of this depends, for me, on whether Pat has his own space within the house. I don’t think it is reasonable to kick Pat out of his own home (although it’s perfectly reasonable and likely that a roommate might take this kind of gathering as an opportunity to mak plans that involve being Somewhere That is Else, it is not kosher to demand that he do so), or to jail him in his room. But I do think it’s OK to say, “I’m going to be doing X thing with a few people on Friday night, and we’ll be using the living room from about six o’clock; just thought you should know,” and expect that, while Pat may still wander through on his way to and from bathroom/kitchen/etc, and even say a brief, “Hi guys,” on his way through, he will not plant himself in the living room and take root for the evening.

            This, however, is my personal take on Roommate Culture, based on the roommates I’ve experienced, and the policies we worked out among us. It is not everybody’s Roommate Culture. Since it sounds as if it has not been this particular set of roommates’ Roommate Culture, if LW wants to make a change to their policies they really need to sit down with Pat and have a very clear talk about it. As in, not so much with the, “I’m having some friends over Friday and wanted to let you know so you could make other plans,” (which I’m betting is way too subtle and will go right over Pat’s head with a cheerful, “Why would I want to make other plans when we’re going to be having friends over?”), and more with the, “Pat, I would like to make a change to the way we handle things when one of us invited friends over. From now on, there’ll be some times when we have friends over together, but also some times when I invite people over so I can catch up with them on my own. I’d like to be able to count on using the living room without you in it on those occasions, and you are very welcome to do the same and ask me to make other plans when you want; just give me a couple day’s notice and I’ll arrange to make myself scarce.”

        3. My impression was they weren’t mutual friends, but people Pat didn’t know or barely knew. It’s circumstantial, I know, but I got this from: 1) it wasn’t mentioned that Pat knew them and 2) they were entertained & seemingly hadn’t heard his stories before. Oh and 3) LW hadn’t seen them in awhile, so I pictured them as being from out of town.

    1. I think one night in a blue moon you can “reserve” the common space, with notice, for a thing you want to host with your own friends. That has never not been my experience in 20+ years of living with non-romantic partner roommates both in the US and abroad. We can disagree, of course, but I think the LW also has a right every now and again to play host in their space without Pat Storytime Fun Evening.

      1. I think it was just the phrasing of “letting you know so you can make other plans” that jolted me. Clearing out of my own home falls somewhere between a courtesy and a favor, not a notification.

        1. Yeah, this one jolted me too. Several years ago, I had a housemate who basically notified me that she was throwing a Christmas party and that she expected me to absent myself from the house for the duration. It wasn’t phrased as a courtesy or a favor, and since I was renting from her in a house she owned, I didn’t feel like I had any leverage at all to even push back on how it was phrased. It really soured our relationship and soured me on living there.

        2. Yeah, saying it like that bothered me too. The way it’s explained in the comment above sounds reasonable.

          Example: one of my terrible old roommates threw a party and had a guest coming who for whatever reason had to bring their dog. The dog hated other dogs. I have a dog. I got told the day of that I was going to have to shut my dog in my room all night, sorry. I was not happy about that.

        3. I think people are reading the nuance of this 2 different ways? To me, “I wanted to let you know so you could make other plans” has an implied ‘if you want’ on the end. Not an order to leave the house but an ‘I’m giving you advanced warning so you have time to make other plans if you want.’ The ‘other plans’ could be ‘leave the house to go to Thing’ or they could be ‘stay in my room and watch movie/read book/surf buzzfeed’. I think it’s a suggestion that a. encourages Pat to think of his own social life and his own plans/things he wants to do, b. encourages Pat to start mentally decoupling himself from LW’s social life, so it’s no longer ‘whoever LW is hanging with, I am automatically also hanging with!’ and c. present Pat with an alternative idea so if he wants, he’s not just sitting alone in his room focusing on how sad/resentful/excluded he is. Of course, it’s not the LW’s job to find the exact wording to gently lead Pat to embracing these ideas. If what LW says is ‘I have plans, you can have your own plans’ and what Pat hears is ‘you are rejecting meeee’ that’s not LW’s fault. They say they’re worried about Pat’s jerkbrain, but if the jerkbrain wants to jerkbrain, it’s gonna do it no matter how nicely you word things. It’s not LW’s job to try to anticipate and pacify Pat’s jerkbrain, because that is an impossible job and it’s not LW’s responsibility. The only one in charge of Pat’s jerkbrain is Pat.

          That being said, obviously to some people it does sound like an order, and that might be a cultural or personal experience thing, which is valid. LW will know best how it fits into the cultural communication norms of wherever they and Pat live, and can adjust accordingly.

        4. Yes, if my roommate said to me “I’m letting you know you need to be gone on X date,” I wouldn’t feel a moment’s hesitation saying, “Actually, no, that proposed date doesn’t work for me, I plan to be home; if you need to do something while I’m gone, either pick a date when I’m already planning to be gone, or request a date from me, but don’t inform me of when I will or will not be in my own living space.”

          So LW, if you do go that route, I’d STRONGLY suggest phrasing it as a polite request and emphasizing that he’d be doing you a favor. I really don’t think you can phrase it as a requirement and still be the reasonable one.

          1. Absolutely. My experience has been that guests are by default kept in your room, and spreading out involve notice ahead of time or a polite request, an by default it’s accepted that other roommates can be around and even plonk down and chat. I’d not appreciate being shifted out of my own house. It’s not an unreasonable blue moon request, but it really is a favor and needs a lot of notice

    2. “Common” space is complicated, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for roommates to call “dibs” on common areas once or twice a month.

      Rent gives him the right to walk through to get to the fridge, but not to invade “Ana’s parents drive up for a day visit” or “Ana’s girlfriends come by for monthly chick lit book club”.

      In a world where we can’t all afford roomy private space, having a “time share” living room with the right to say “no, this is girls’ night, you can’t come” once a month doesn’t strike me as unfair. YMMV.

      1. I’m 33, divorced, and living with my dad again for financial reasons. We try to treat each other like roommates in this respect. When he hosts poker night, I’ll greet everyone, and I’ll be through a couple times to take the dog out, but I pretty much stay in my room, because those aren’t my friends.

    3. He absolute does have a right to be in shared spaces, but it’s also polite and good practice between roommates to sometimes defer and let the other person entertain in the common space. My roommmate had someone over for dinner last night and I politely gave her the kitchen/dining area common space for the evening even though I have the “right” to be in there (I definitely popped in for water and waved hello but otherwise I hung out in my room and read a book). Tonight I have friends coming for dinner and my roommate has made arrangements to be out at the same time. Ta da. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask a roommate, “Hey, I’m having some people over this night–do you mind if I have dibs on the common area so we can hang?” without being expected to include that person in the socializing. It would be shitty to do it all the time and to make that person feel unwelcome in their own home (and it wouldn’t be appropriate to require that person to have to hide and not come out at all, or to be too loud or stay up too late or make a huge mess and not clean it, etc.), but people living in roommate situations should expect and be able to handle having a social events occur in their home that they are not always an integral part of.

      1. The way the script phrases it as an announcement (you need to be out of the way on Thursday because my plans for your living space were already firm before I consulted you) not as a request (I’d like to host a private gathering of close friends next week – would you be able to make other plans on Thursday?) rubs me the wrong way. I get the feeling that “No, actually I was planning to [cook dinner/watch TV/play video games] in the common area on Thursday. How about Friday instead?” wouldn’t be considered an acceptable answer. Maybe I’m reading this from a “guess culture” point of view and if everyone involved is firmly “ask culture” there’s no problem, though.

        1. (Oops, WordPress changed my username on me – I’m CD, but it turns out this site only lets you enter a username if you initiate the comment while logged out, and for new comments you get the overall WordPress username instead. Now I know.)

          1. This is potentially a cultural thing too. I recently moved from Denmark to the US with my American husband. My mother-in-law, who is generally a very sweet and kind woman, has rubbed me the wrong way several times by saying something like “I’m gonna need you to help me out tomorrow with XX” or “I need you to do this thing for me”. While I know she means it as a request, to me, it sounds like a demand, and like she is taking our time and availability for granted. I know it’s probably depending on where you are, but I know from experience that something that sounds like a perfectly polite request from one person can sound rude and demanding to another.

            (I’m definitely in favor of asking “Could you clear out?” rather than “I need you to clear out”, but I think the intend is the same).

    4. I disagree. Sometimes roommates want to have functions that are reserved to only specific people. Where are they supposed to have these functions? Why, in the common areas of THEIR APARTMENT. With advance notice, if my roommate says “I want to have someone over on Thursday for dinner etc so I’d like to reserve the living room/kitchen” I will say “oh, great, thank you for letting me know! I will make other plans/stay over with Boyfriend/hang out in my room”, and I *expect the same courtesy*. When I am hosting a function that my roommate is welcome to join, with plenty of advance notice I say “I am having $people over on Friday night for Netflix and drinking! It will be fun, you will enjoy them, you should join us!” Or “$person and I are heading out to dinner on Main Drag somewhere, you should come with us!”

      The only roommate I’ve ever actually had problems with regarding the reservation of common space was the one who had a very tenuous grasp on boundaries, privacy, and respect of other people’s space and possessions. (Readers, I walked in on him masturbating on my sofa.) My personal experience has been that EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD has understood reservation of common spaces on an occasional basis.

      1. Sure, it’s reasonable to ask, but it’s not reasonable to *expect* that. It is, unfortunately, one of the downsides of sharing a place – you share access to the common areas. Now, most reasonable roommates will do it as a favor (and get the same in return from you) but phrasing it or expecting it as an obligation (“Hey, I’m having $people over on Thursday so I need you to be elsewhere that day”) would rub me completely the wrong way.

        Honestly, I would simply never have a function in a shared apartment’s common space that my roommate couldn’t come to. I’ve lived with multiple people without a hitch and whenever we had a gathering in the living room, the other roommate was always welcome. (I have, of course, sometimes chosen to leave my roommate alone by hanging in my own bedroom, and other roommates have done the same for me.)

        1. You’ve never had your sister, or your boyfriend/girlfriend, or an old friend over to your apartment for a one-on-one dinner? This is never a thing that’s happened? Do you make dinner for three every time your partner stays over? Your roommate’s mum visits, and you just…barge on in there? I mean, cool, do you.

          1. Or, alternatively, have they never lived with someone who was essentially a stranger that they don’t share friends with?

            I’m having a hard time with this conversation because people keep focusing on how it would feel to *be excluded* without thinking about the fact that the other person also pays rent and may want to do things that don’t include you all the time, and that that’s valid too.

          2. To me, there’s a big difference between a one-on-one visit, esp. with people that don’t have any connection to the roommate, and a larger party that involves people who are, to some degree or another, friends of the roommate.

            Not to say that LW wouldn’t have the right to ask, I guess, but it seems unnecessarily hurtful to do so if there’s anywhere else these folks could gather.

          3. Sure, if you CAN gather elsewhere obviously you want to do that on sort of a rotating basis so that nobody’s roommates are being discommoded more than anybody else’s (this is also the operating motive behind the Three-Apartment Shuffle), but sometimes there just literally isn’t anywhere else. If I want to make dinner for a few people but not my roommate, where am I supposed to do that that isn’t my own kitchen? If my old friend or sister are in town and I know they want to Talk About Things, we can’t do that in a restaurant! At least not the rage-y or cry-y bits. 🙂 That just gets awkward for everybody.

            I mean, I get along with my current roommate in a way that I have literally never gotten along with any roommate in my life, which is utter bliss, tbh, but still I occasionally want to make a dinner and watch a movie in my house with my sweetie that doesn’t include my roommate. 🙂

          4. @msethyl yeah, I came to the belated realization that the commenters here who think it’s unjust to reserve the common spaces probably have always lived with friends. I’ve never been roommates with friends, and there seems to be a very definite distinction.

    5. I think the key is to make it clear that it’s a request/favour and not a decree, and also to make clear that staying in the apartment, but just in his room, is also fine.

      I would absolutely not be okay with a roommate telling me I had to be out of the apartment at a given time, for pretty much any reason. But I would be 100% okay with “Hey can you make Tuesdays a night where you stay in your room? I want to host a thing.”

        1. That’s not what I intended! I do think that the “request that is not a request” request is apt for Pat, because the LW is already upset with him and he’s already been annoyingly dominating gatherings at home (to the point that mutual friends are boycotting events in their home in order to avoid Pat, if you saw the LW’s update comment), and I think it’s ok to go a little more over the line into “you are not invited to eat dinner with us” than I would with a roommate I was just moving in with or one without that history.

    6. I both agree and disagree. It would be exceptionally rude to exclude Pat from existing in public spaces, yes. And if he were the type of person who can come in, exchange a few words, and then leave well enough alone, then fine. But it’s not rude to ask a roommate to refrain from butting in and involving themself in every moment of the conversation.

      There are NOT always other places to meet. In my town there isn’t anyplace that stays open late that’s at all close to my home. So the options come down to: hang out inside at home, hang out on the sidewalk, or hang out in the unlit park after dark. Good roommates are understanding of these needs. When possible we’ll coordinate schedules so it’s not an issue at all. If that doesn’t work, I think it’s fine to reserve common areas for social events…. with reasonable notice.

    7. Mmmm, I don’t agree, in that I share a house with two other people and sometimes have small gatherings that they are not a part of, and usually I’ll just email/text and be like “x number of people are going to be over on y day from a-z time, feel free to eat any leftovers that are in the fridge afterwards” and they’re totally cool about it. It’s not like they’re being banned from hanging out in an area indefinitely. But, we’re friendly but not friends and the people I’m inviting over are not mutual friends.

      It would be a little weird/uncomfortable-making if I lived with someone who had mutual friends over and didn’t want me to say hi to them, but I can’t tell from the letter if the friends in question were LW-and-Pat’s friends or just LW’s friends.

      I think I’d take one of the paths of least resistance and just have gatherings at someone else’s house, when I know Pat won’t be home, or at a local coffeeshop or bar or something instead of at home.

      But 100% agree with the Captain that I do NOT think it is a good idea for the LW to take on expanding Pat’s social circle. That is Pat’s job unless Pat asks for help with that specifically and the LW wants to. Managing Pat? Pat’s job!

    8. I’ve certainly had to explain to housemates that if they want to undertake *shared hobby* with mutual friends in our shared house, they bloody well better invite me, otherwise that is offensive in the extreme. If they want to undertake *shared hobby* elsewhere. regardless who else is involved, fine. But to play our mutual hobby under our shared roof and expect me to be elsewhere is deeply offensive.

    9. LW here.

      I wasn’t expecting such a fast reply! Thank you for the really great advice and I’ve been reading it over and over. I’m working through the comments now because you guys always have good feedback.

      Point of order, Pat is not paying rent. Kindhearted spouse took him in because he got kicked out of his old place and can’t really afford to live anywhere right now.

      He still should be able to use the guest areas because of basic human decency and such so I’m not sure if that necessarily affects the discussion. But he hasn’t expressly *paid* for that right, I guess.

      1. This may be wandering afield of the topic, but is there any kind of exit strategy in place for Pat? I ask because, based on your comments, it seems like an unsustainable amount of his emotional labor has been placed on you. He’s in your house all the time. He’s apparently got a bad case of Geek Social Fallacy #5 (constantly asking you to his classes, getting upset that your spouse has a private event that doesn’t include him). Responsibility for his hurt feelings and jerkbrain has landed on your plate, too, to the extent where your needs in your own home are taking a back seat.

        Even for someone you genuinely like, that’s an exhausting situation.

        It makes me think of this post on unpaid emotional labor and the MetaFilter thread it spawned, both of which are worth a look if you haven’t seen them yet.

  2. I had a tech friend/roommate who would do this exact thing.

    There might be no answer. I even taught him active listening skills — bad move! That was now his new topic to barge into convos.

    I would have visitors over, discussing vibrant topics running a full colour range, roommate comes in, wants to talk about the specs of a banal engineering gadget, next fing he’s bringing his laptop out to show em, they’re too polite to say no … And eventually I’d have say “Where’s the ” eyes about to glaze over button?”

    Eventually we had a rule. My friends would only ever “pick me up” so any visit would be just to pick me up and get outa the house. Of course at first he’d assume he was invited (he never scheduled his own social encounters, would only use my friends viits to come alive . But no. I would say, “We planned this a few days ago … We made plans. This is a plan. Not a freestyle encounter.”

    Reiterating to him that my stray friends are not his fodder to corner with a PowerPoint demonstration.

    Essentially you have to give them the intervention bullet:

    You don’t know the *art* of conversation. The is a gathering of conversation artists and we need people with skills, not people who steal the ball. We have told you active listening skills, but you just wait for us to finish them switch it back to your engineering/venn diagram thoughts.”

    (One example, I had broken up with a gf, had said a bunch of stuff about it, he coughed and said, “This guy in New York I know, (a bunch of words that might be a response… But no) says he can get me a meeting with a venture capitalist blar blar blar.)


    You have every reason to be annoyed.

    But do not feed the bear.

  3. I wish this blog had been around when I went to college (before the web existed, heh) and dealt with my own version of Pat. “Patty” was a lovely person, bright and fun to be around, but she did not understand how conversations worked. My nonstrategy for dealing with her monologues and interruptions was to just let her dominate the conversation until one day when I couldn’t handle it and yelled at her. (“Patty! When somebody says they’ve had a lousy day, you ask them about their day. You don’t start talking about YOUR lousy day.”) This actually worked in the moment, as Patty’s intentions were good and she wasn’t given to manipulative shame-spiraling. But after that it was still difficult to tell her I had a problem with her way of interacting when I was calm enough to care about not hurting her feelings.

    All of CA’s suggestions are great (with the exception of kicking Pat out of his own living space when mutual friends come over). They’re also so, so much easier said than done. After you’ve adapted a script that you think will work for you, it might help to rehearse it in your head before trying it out on Pat. And after the hard conversation has happened, reward yourself with a cookie or a trip to a bookstore or anything else you find motivating.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks. Yes, It’s going to be hard to do in the moment, but Step 1 will be memorizing the scripts so they’re at least at the front of my brain. The scripts the captain gives are soooo helpful but they only work if I say them. 🙂 Practicing is a good idea so I can come off calm and matter-of-fact and not accidentally mean or sarcastic.

      1. But keep in mind that no matter how you say it, he may feel like you are being mean or sarcastic. (My mom used to say, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it!” as an excuse to shut down whatever it was I was trying to say, no matter what “tone” I used.) This conversation is not going to be fun for either of you, but it needs to happen.

        To put it in perspective, I get really excited about telling my stories and sometimes have trouble waiting my turn too because my brain changes directions too quickly sometimes, so I am often worried about forgetting what I want to say. Anyway.

        During an argument with my boyfriend, he brought up (angrily) about how he felt like I never listened to him because I didn’t adequately respond to his part of the conversation or launched immediately into my own story. I know I have a tendency to do both of those things, so despite feeling upset at him saying these things, I took a step back and thought about it. I apologized for doing both of those things and promised that I would actively work on it. I also explained to him that sometimes I am thinking too much about how to respond to him that I forgot what I was going to say that would have been more appropriate than whatever came out of my mouth. I also explained that my way of commiserating with him was to tell him a similar story of my own to show that I know how he is feeling. At that point, he understood better where I was coming from (he said so verbally), but asked for me to not tell a story but to acknowledge him more because that would indicate that I was actively listening to him. (Then the other key part if that since that conversation, I have actively been improving this dynamic – not just promising change then not delivering it.)

        I am glad he finally said something about it. I didn’t realize 1) how often I was doing it, and 2) how much it bothered him. When he was upset, I thought it was just him being upset about the thing he was complaining about – not that AND me not listening to him. So I hope this story helped! 😉

        Tl;dr version: the conversation will be tough, but you will get through it. If Pat actually wants to fix this problem, he will fix it [now that he knows about it (he may already know about it, but now he can’t deny it!)]. He may react poorly in the moment then come back and have a good conversation about it. You never know. All you can do is your best, LW! Good luck!!

  4. “I would like to help Pat expand his friend circle (especially to include people who share Pat’s main interest and would find his stories interesting, since I don’t) but I don’t really want to sit down and have an awkward conversation with Pat where I have to explain that he is boring me and making me tired. It’s not a fun conversation for anyone to have, but Pat in particular has an overactive jerk brain and will likely be very hurt.”

    I’ve been there! I have a brother who can be very much like your Pat sometimes, and more recently I’ve had a phase of getting fed up with colleagues at a new job who are lovely but can talk literally hours about their cars, the state of the traffic that morning, and great motor vehicles they have known. As a lifelong non-car-owner, I used to hate this and feel grumpy and excluded and really bored.

    For me, the best solution was to not sit down and have an awkward conversation about how I felt excluded, but to *consciously practice* paying attention to my own feelings of grumpiness and doing something about them. I got in the habit of getting up and leaving, or suggesting a new topic, or just going, okay, I’m gonna use this moment to make a coffee or check my phone. And after a few weeks of ‘arggh, new colleagues, will they hate me and think I’m being rude’ we’ve settled down to a new normal. I mostly opt out and now when I join in the car chat occasionally I’m not fed up by it before it’s even started, and it doesn’t make me resent the person talking – much better.

    Pulling off conversational course changes and interrupting things calmly and politely is a skill, and needs practice. Don’t beat yourself up if you read that advice and feeling intimidated by it! It might be that it’s stressful to try the Captain’s scripts while chatting to Pat, if you’re already busy feeling frustrated and angry whenever he starts talking. If so, you might wanna try out ways to steer a conversation in other contexts.

    If there’s a known conversation-stealer at your work or uni or wherever, testing out these subject changes might be easier on someone you see every now and then than on someone you live with who might just follow you to the kitchen and keep talking when you say you want to get a drink. Changing EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW is a very daunting plan, but getting in the habit of casually removing yourself from a boring conversation when you’re bored – that’s achievable, and a super great life skill to have!

  5. When someone has a really low level of natural talent at interacting with other people, for whatever reason, you may find that you need to be a) more direct and b) more general (in terms of “do this every time” advice) than you would normally be. LW has said that he can be oblivious to hints, body language and so on indicating that people are bored. Trouble is that when people are just plain bad at following these messages, what other people tend to do is ramp up the hints and the body language. And all Roomie understands is that the other person is pissed off.

    It’s not LW’s job to train him in the ways of socialising, of course. But if LW does want to help I would suggest not trying to deal with these issues in the moment but instead do it ahead of time: “I think you’re great, but this is something that has been bothering me. You did this on [occasion]. Here’s what I’d really like you to do differently in future” and then make it really specific – rather than “just shut up occasionally” say “after one of your anecdotes, let someone else talk for ten minutes and then ask them a couple of questions about what they’ve said.”

    Disclaimer: I do have an ASD diagnosis, but I’m not trying to diagnose this guy with the same. I think this is a good way to approach this situation with anyone whose social skills are poor, whatever the reason for that, and I’ve tried this approach with people who were very definitely not autistic but just oblivious to other people’s boredom, and it has worked well. I kinda feel for him because I used to be him when I didn’t know any better because I get very obsessive interests which I like to talk about, and for a long time I couldn’t tell the difference between “standing, listening intently” and “standing there bored senseless and wanting lightning to strike this girl who won’t shut up about the Beatles. Countless times this happened:

    Me: “so that’s what happened! Oh… I’m not boring you, am I?”
    Them: (rolling eyes and yawning) “no, no, I’m fascinated. Do go on.”
    Me: “alrighty! In 1965…”

    (Incidentally, it’s no longer the Beatles.) as I said, nobody has an obligation to teach him How To Social, but if you want to help, direct is the way forward. I wish someone had been direct with me much earlier.

    1. I am also autistic, and very much agree about directness being the way to go, and how ramping up the hints and body language does not work.

      Understandably, LW is worried about hurting Pat’s feelings, and stated that Pat is sensitive to criticism, so they’re trying to make the criticism as soft as possible to spare Pat’s feelings. This is understandable, but in my experience makes things more stressful, not less, for both me and the person trying to give me criticism. The more ambiguous the hints, the more likely I am to descend into a shame-spiral, whereas a blunt “shut up, vass, you’re monopolising the conversation” actually calms me down because I know exactly what’s wrong and what to do about it.

      Also, be aware that for some people who have difficulties reading people, those difficulties increase with more people to monitor or more anxiety, and might include memory difficulties (including remembering what to do when) and sensory issues, and if that’s true for Pat, it might be extra hard in a group and with background noise. In that situation, giving Pat more time to notice what’s going on is less likely to help than giving clearer cues.

      And like CA said, please, please do not make this person your project. That’s patronising and awful. He didn’t ask you to be his friendship coach, or his therapist. (If he does ask, please redirect him to an actual therapist. Therapists and their clients should not live together!)

      1. Yes indeed: more people means more variables and more ways to get it wrong. It can be really tricky to figure out when it’s your turn to talk. I’ve been working on my social skills intensely for the last fifteen years or so (I’m 35 now) and while I’m pretty good at conversations with up to three other people at once, that is the absolute maximum I can deal with with any kind of skill. If there’s any more than that I tend to just give up and go quiet. As a teenager I probably would have tried to shout over everyone instead and then got everyone shouting over each other and then get overwhelmed by the volume in the room! The fact is that group conversations take up an enormous amount of brain power, because there is a tremendous amount of nonverbal communication going on, many things to hold in your brain at once, context, people’s individual personalities and levels of closeness to each other and to you – and that’s quite apart from the fact that I have weird hearing that smooshes voices together so that I can’t make out any words if more than one person is speaking at once. The point I think I’m trying to make here is that for people who find this easy and natural, all of this just happens in the inner recesses of the brain. But if you have to consciously think about stuff (as I do, and Pat may well need to do) it can overwhelm the processing power of the brain very quickly. So it may be that even if Pat takes everything on board he may find it easier to put into practice in some situations than others.

        1. I don’t have an official ASD diagnosis, but I have a couple of adjacent things (ADHD, sensory processing issues) and, let me tell you, I have spent DECADES learning How Not To Be Pat, and at 45 I’m STILL not 100% about it. Everything that Just Plain Neddy and vass said rings very, very true

          My best friend in the world is willing to just up and say “Bored now” when I’m boring her. And my adult son, with whom I live, has offered to use visual tells to show me when his hyperbole is a JOKE, so I don’t disagree on literal grounds and spoil the funny.

          You maybe don’t have BFF or blood relation privileges of bluntness, but if you can manage kind directness in telling Pat what he’s doing and, if he persists, say “Pat, you’re Doing The Thing again,” you would probably be doing a kindness not only to yourself and your other friends but also to Pat.

  6. Have you tried sitting down and telling Pat that his endless stories are a social problem? I’m an extrovert with autism, and when I try to make friends with people I used to go seriously overboard being chatty and telling stories, and it drove people away as much as it drew people in because I didn’t know that it was a problem. You don’t have to be Pat’s social trainer, but sitting him down and telling him point-blank that he dominates conversations might be the kindest thing to do in this case. If you have a few dollars to spare, making him a gift of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Make Friends and Influence People” might be a good move as well–that book seriously helped me figure out how to fine-tune my conversational skills and learn when to shut up.

    1. Personally, I think gifting people self-help books is a very, very delicate prospect and should never be done unless the person has (1) told you that they think the issue at hand is a problem for them and some they want to work on AND (2) told you that they want your help in addressing the problem/finding resources.

      Otherwise, in my opinion, it completely out of line, no matter how good the intentions.

      1. AGREED.

        My boss at an internship four years ago gave me that book as an end-of-internship present. I was kinda offended, though there wasn’t anything I could do other than say thank you as politely as possible, because boss. When I finally got around to reading it, I saw she was right about some things she’d written in the evaluation, and the book as helpful, ish – but that only worked because BOSS. And because I didn’t have to see her after that; it would have been pretty awkward if I did. “Oh no, Boss thinks I’m terribly awkward! I do know how to make friends! URGH.”

        Don’t give Pat the book.

        1. My parents used to leave out self-help books laying around like “How to deal with your acting-out teenager” and “How to win your teen’s love back” and such. It was gross and manipulative and I’m pretty sure they didn’t actually read them, although I did get some REALLY weird conversations for a month or two (“It’s getting really cold out and my sweater is too small, would it be okay if I asked aunt to knit me a new one?” “Well, first we’ll set a budget for your fall wardrobe, and then we’ll –” “pfffbwahaha WARDROBE?”)

          In hindsight I should’ve taken the budget, but I was 14 and not interested in clothes and my aunt’s sweaters, despite hideous colours, were the warmest freaking things on the planet. I wish I had one now.

          In a totally different aside, I loved it when I worked at the bookstore and people asked me where the self-help books were. It took a gimlet stare and a snap judgement of character, but I got to use my deadpan response now and then: “I’m sorry, that would defeat the purpose.”

          (I’m not usually a jerk, they’d either laugh or look really confused, either way I’d show them to the section and help them find books)

          1. It was one of the first signs that I’d grow up to be a therapist that I actually read my parents’ self-help books and started critiquing their parenting. For example, the excellent How to Talk so Kids Will Listen (left on the computer desk in the den) discussed the importance of not invalidating children’s feelings; so the next time I raged, “I hate my brother!” and my mother said, “Of course you don’t, you love him really,” I wheeled on her and said, “You’re not supposed to SAY that!”

    2. Wow, that perfectly describes my own behavior! And how it works out. Ive long suspected I’m firmly on the spectrum (two relatives are) but doctors have sniffed and looked pained when I’ve asked for help. Now who lacks people skills? It’d be funny if I didn’t really need the right doc. So glad I saw your comment; it’s given me courage.

      1. Making a wild guess from your username, but I suspect looking up “autism misdiagnosis in girls” might find you some articles to add to your arsenal when talking with doctors. A lot of doctors assume that unless you’re totally catatonic and discuss nothing but train timetables, you’re not really autistic.

  7. LW if Pat does end up asking for tips about this, here’s some things I do to keep from dominating conversations

    – pay attention to how much you’re interrupting and if you interrupt someone, finish up quickly, acknowledge that you interrupted and ask them to continue their thought from before

    – when you’re telling a story, focus on being as concise as you can

    – pay attention to how many stories you’re telling relative to others. If you feel like you talked a bit, take a break for a period of time and let others lead the conversation. If everyone seems shy and it’s bugging you, you can try asking someone else a question and then listening.

    I agree with the captain that it’s not really your job to fix this for pat, but if he does happen to ask you about it, these are some concrete things that someone can think about in conversations that don’t involve guessing whether the other person is having fun or not.

    1. These are brilliant rules. Not easy, if you find it hard to monitor yourself, others and what you’re saying, but a great set of things to aim for with practice. I think I might try one at a time on different occasions, and eventually try to add them together. Noting down for future use!

    2. Adding to “asking them to continue their thought from before”, many people will say “oh, Ive forgotten what I was talking about now!” which can be seen as an in for “oh! In that case, let me tell you about…”

      So if I do feel the urgent, unsquashable urge to interject, I make a mental note as to what the person was talking about, before jumping in. Then whether that leads to its own discussion, or just a quick aside, I will say “anyway, you were telling us about x, Id love to hear how that ended…”

      So if LW is actually “teaching” Pat, and Pat learns best from fixed rules, it might be helpful for them to learn the rule of “before joining in, make a mental note of what the other person was talking about. Speak for no longer than y minutes, then conclude, and invite the other person back in by inviting them to finish speaking about the topic you interrupted”.

      Another rule I try to go by, is before telling an anecdote, I say “stop me if Ive already mentioned this…” – after all, it might be an anecdote they already saw on facebook, or Ive forgotten having told it before. If someone then says “oh yes, I remember, x happened” then it can be a bit deflating to be stopped in my tracks, but similarly, I dont want to bore them so Im glad they did speak up.

      (As an aside, I agree it is a bit unfair to ask Pat not to be in his communal area when LW is entertaining, especially if *Pat* thinks the guests are mutual friends. I dont have a great solution, but I do see that could be a bit alienating and upsetting if they arent used to it.)

      (hopefully this comment goes through; I often find they dont show up here, it seems a bit hit and miss, and Im not sure why!)

    3. That rule #1 is great. I don’t dominate conversations but I’m very impulsive, especially when I’m excited, and I have not been able to train myself out of interrupting. I deal with it by always following this rule. I myself don’t mind so much being interrupted, I mind the conversation moving on without my having had a chance to say that thing I was trying to say, so I do for others what I’d want done for me.

      1. I grew up in an interrupty and tangent prone family and have had a lot of close friends that are cool with interrupting too. Because of that I view conversation as kind of a nested thing like (dad’s story (then that made dad thing of thing #2 that’s related (i asked how is x person in that story anyway (oh they’re golfing a lot? now we’re talking about golf) back to x person) back to thing 2) back to orig story) you open topics while holding the other topics in the back of your head and then slowly close them all back off.

        As a result I usually do try to always go back to whatever someone was trying to say and I try to hold what the topic was in my head somewhere, though I do try to minimize this behaviour with people that are not close to me. I agree, it’s not interrupting that’s annoying (for me anyway) it’s not being able to finish that cool thought.

  8. We’re often taught that being silent when someone is irritating you is the kind thing to do. In some situations (old lady humming to herself a little too loudly on the bus, for example) I’m on board with that. But in an ongoing relationship, secretly building a storehouse of irritated resentment that you never tell the other person about (and thus deny them a chance to address) can actually be quite cruel.

    I think this is a case where respectful, loving honesty about the things you enjoy and don’t enjoy about spending time with Pat is the best thing to do. You can offer reassurance when you talk with him (e.g. “I love being your friend, and this does not lessen that in any way, but changing protocols of our interactions in the following way will make everything more pleasant for me, which means a stronger friendship”) but don’t do it minimizing the extent or importance of your needs.

    Pat doesn’t have to change because you say so, but if you’re Pat’s friend, it’s important to be honest about what reactions you’re having to the things he does. He can choose what to do with your feedback. It may bring you closer together, and it may drive you a little apart. That’s the risk of honesty, but in the current situation, you’re not happy and Pat is unknowingly being resented, so the risk is worth taking.

    Also: remember to do some assessment and be honest with yourself about how much of this stuff is universally a problem for people who interact with Pat, and how much of it is specific to you and your preferences.

    1. All of this! Especially the last paragraph. Not that roommate can’t still be annoyed with Pat despite what others think of him, but I’ve been in the situation before where someone complained about how annoying a mutual acquaintance is and I’m like “uh, no, I think they’re really cool.” Folks have different tolerances which should be respected, but few people are universally liked/disliked.

  9. I’d tread carefully with that book. My Dad made me read it as a youngster and it killed my, admittedly feeble, interest in interacting with other people stone dead for years. Pretend you like and are interested in people then you can sell them things – no, thanks.

    1. Oh how much I agree with you! My mother gave me the book–I think to perk my interest in being social and all it did was confirm most of the world was phony and I wanted no part of it.

      1. LW, I feel for you. I too have a Pat in my life, and I will be trying some of the Captain’s advice. (My Pat isn’t a roommate, just my husband’s emotionally needy employee.)

        Funny how many of us nerds have stories about “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” Here we have one more way this blog affirms that I’m not the only one.

        I was given that book by the head nun of my school, on stage in front of 150 girls, in honor of being the girl most likely to need it. She didn’t phrase it quite that way, but all the teachers knew it and so did I.

        It was meant to be a confidence builder, to pull me out of my shell, and to prevent my apologizing all the time. If there’s a more humiliating way to try to build someone’s confidence, I’d like to know.

        Plus, it was all about being fake, as noted above.

        1. …wow. That’s AWFUL. Frankly, I’d be extremely hesitant to put somebody kind of shy on a stage AT ALL, let alone–I just don’t even know what to say. That’s bizarre in the worst what-were-they-thinking way.

        2. Sorry that happened to you. Gah.

          I happened to see a copy of How to Make Friends and Influence People at somebody else’s house years ago and flipped through, thinking it would be terrible. What I read of it was more, “People will like you when you’re nice to them. Here’s how to be nice to them.” Maybe there was terrible stuff in the later chapters I didn’t read, maybe my low expectations were easy to exceed, but it didn’t seem that bad.

          (Though it helps that nobody handed it to me in front of a freaking audience. Head nun maybe needed a self-help book about dealing with people a whole lot more than you did.)

          1. Yeah, I actually enjoyed that book a lot too. What I got out of it was NOT, “Here’s how to be fake to sell people stuff,” but, “If you want to make people feel liked and cared for but aren’t sure how to do it, here are some ideas.” Some of the things in there (like learn people’s names and REMEMBER them) have helped me out many times over the years to show people I genuinely cared about (but, for example, didn’t know very well yet) that I cared. Sometimes that’s easy but sometimes it takes work.

  10. the script I liked the most was “Is there a way you’d like to be interrupted when that happens?” – this was an immensely helpful thing for me. It’s really really hard to change a bad habit that you only do when you’re preoccupied with something else (and spoken language is a huge “something else” for my brain). Having a friend interrupt me (vocally or by poking me) and draw attention to the bad habit in the moment really helps (so long as I trust them enough to not wake the jerkbrain).

    of course, being that friend isn’t necessarily easy. I have a lot of trouble calling out other people’s bad behaviour, because it can take hours or days before I figure out why I suddenly felt weird. (sometimes even the feelings are delayed until the situation ends, too.)

    1. Yes. It takes me a long time to process my feelings, too. So I have that problem in the moment where I’m not really sure whats happening but FEELINGS and then later when I’ve sorted it out it just feels kind of random to drop on someone, because it won’t naturally come up. That’s why the scripts are so helpful. I don’t have to wrangle my brain so much. I’ve been working hard on being more direct and sometimes that means making it weird. Maybe I’ll plan it so that I can flee afterwards and privately hyperventilate.

  11. I’ve both been a Pat (late-diagnosed ADHD for the lose) and dealt with Pats, directness is key. Surely there’s a way to call Pat into the kitchen under some other pretext and say “dude, chill.” Some people just need reminders, and I’d much rather be told in the moment that I need to chill than think my roommate is just gritting their teeth the whole time. I also tend to forget what stories I’ve told to which people, and would appreciate someone saying they’ve heard it before. When dealing with Pats, I find the side conversation strategy works best: they get to continue talking (and you said the other guests were entertained), but you also get a conversation with the one or two people you’re most interesting in speaking with. Might not work if he is very loud, though.

    I disagree with kicking Pat out of the common areas UNLESS he never leaves the apartment (which is its own level of suck). If it’s a case of “these people can only come over for this one particular night,” then I think it would be okay to schedule that in advance, but not to just bring folks over and say “clear out, Pat.” He pays for the space too, and shouldn’t have to hole up in his room with a book while a party is going on in his own home. (Aside: I really wish there were more indoor “third places” where people could gather and talk without spending money.)

    As far as expanding his friends circle, only he can do that, but have you brought up the idea of a regular class or meetup? Which would, not coincidentally, give you nights when you know Pat will definitely not be in the apartment.

    1. Pat is almost always home and only rarely leaves for more than an hour and a half at a time. He doesn’t pay rent. When he is going to be out all evening, it’s not scheduled. He is actually been taking a class for his hobby for about 6 months. No besties yet, but these things take time.

      He’s mostly stopped attempting to get me to go to the classes with him which is an improvement.

      My spouse has a “private” event semi-regularly with some friends of his I don’t want to hang out with and Pat initially took that kind of personally until I explained it was private by my request to keep them away from me. I’m still not sure if that explanation “fixed” the problem or if he even believed me, but I think it’s kind of out of my hands what he chooses to do with that information.

      I too wish there were more “third places” for socializing. Our house was supposed to serve that function for our group but it’s been complicated.

  12. As a fellow ADHD-er, I was Pat for years and years. I won’t armchair diagnose anyone, but I thought maybe I’d offer a perspective from the other end of things, since the “i’m so excited to tell you this story, what do you mean you’re not interested?” thing has always been a big issue for me.

    One thing I wish that my roommates had done was be a little more tactful about it – they were always pretty understandably frustrated with the long story thing, but hearing people tell you “gosh, you are so annoying” and “your stories are really boring” was really hurtful, especially combined with other blunt (but well meant) comments. Not only did it not help the habit, it made me super self conscious about being uninteresting to potential friends for years afterwards.

    I very much agree with the captain’s advice to offer a gentle, friendly direction on the topic, if Pat asks. And perhaps change the topic in a friendly but direct way, like “wow, that’s really cool! it reminds me of this thing that happened to (guest)”. If he interrupts, then it’s fair to point out that it’s rude, but give him a chance to redirect his attention.

    1. I don’t have ADHD (no formal diagnoses, but I’m fairly sure I’m not 100% neurotypical), but ohhh, I’ve heard those things too. My least favorite is the blunt, “I have no idea what you’re talking about,” accompanied by a stare and a change of subject. I’ve learned to pare down my stories to the (to me) absolute bare minimum of both content and vocabulary, but those comments stay with you for a long time.

      Which is not to say, LW, that you shouldn’t have the conversations with Pat that the Captain recommends. I think you absolutely should, before your boredom and annoyance with his interaction style comes out in a burst, rather than a controlled way.

  13. I grew up thinking that was the way it was done. You say how yours was and they say how theirs was and you listen to them go on at length. I was astonished when someone validated what I said for the first time. Took me a while longer to realize that everyone did not do what the adults in my family do and I needed to stop doing the thing. Growing up is hard work.

  14. Personally I would stick to how this affects you personally, and be very careful not to make sweeping statements about how other people than you feel. It’s very reasonable to let someone know that you personally find a certain behaviour of theirs frustrating. It’s not so reasonable to give unasked for judgements where you appoint yourself the social skills expert or say that ‘everyone feels this way when you do this’.

  15. When I was in my early twenties, I was incapable of hearing someone say something without telling a related story about it. One day, my girlfriend pointed out a mutual friend who did a similar thing. She told me she expected that the friend was insecure and wanted to be the focus of attention, but it wasn’t really necessary because everyone in our friend group liked the mutual friend a lot. She helped me notice how people moved their faces and bodies when mutual friend’s stories were taking up too much social room. And once I learned to see it, I saw people doing the same thing sometimes when I told stories. And that gave me the information I needed to dial it back. By the time I was 25, I had broken the habit of always having a story to tell, and I started to have the really quite awesome experience where people would ask me to tell some particular story to someone.

    And my GF did it without ever saying “You are annoying me with your endless dominance of group conversations.”

    1. I was that person too (I think many people were that person at some point) and I was able to stop telling every story, but I was never able to stop wanting to tell every story, you know? The most useful advice I ever saw about that – which may have been here or may have been somewhere else, I forget – was to say something like “Oh, that reminds me of something that happened to me once” and then stop. If people are interested, they’ll ask, otherwise the conversation can just keep going. And the story has been acknowledged, so it’s no longer jumping up and down in your brain, wanting attention.

      1. Yes, yes she is. She is someone else’s wife these days, but I will always be grateful to her for this specific thing. (As well as many good times, but this has made an enormous difference in my life.)

  16. I think there was a post like this some years ago wherein the “Pat” of the situation was someone’s spouse (he really really liked to talk about philosophy or something?).

    I do like Pat does sometimes. I do other rude/boring/annoying things in conversations that I don’t realize. I really really appreciate it when people point it out to me, so long as they do it in a way that isn’t embarrassing or condescending. A conversation with Pat about the Thing He Does would probably be helpful. He may not care, and that’s his thing. He may not realize this is a thing he does.

    In the event that he wants not to do The Thing anymore and asks for you for advice or help or whatever, borrowing from the previous situation, you could develop a signal or something for social situations to indicate, for example, “you have told this story 3 times, and 5 of 7 people have already heard it,” just so he’s aware and you aren’t calling him out in front of everyone. That way he can stop or continue as he likes.

    But for your own sake, I really really thing the advice to find some sans-Pat social situations is great. Or go out alone without Pat. Or something.

  17. If you have a lot of mutual friends, I don’t think you should talk to Pat or bar him from the common areas. Groups of friends have a way of taking sides over something like this. Your whole social circle might break in half. And you live with this guy; you don’t know what will or will not make him angry. Have your non-Pat moments outside the apartment and with people who are not mutual friends, even if it’s difficult .

    1. Yes, and most of them have already sided against Pat for various past issues so they are pretty useless even as a support system for me at this point. We couldn’t even get any of them to come to our house for months because they were boycotting Pat. it got to the point where we were like “welp. guess it’s time to make new friends…” (A Plan I am still pursuing) before they finally seemed to mostly get over themselves. But they are happy to pile on immediately if I have the slightest complaint so they are off limits to me for discussing Pat now.

      1. Between Pat driving away your friends, your spouse being the one who brought him into the house (but who also excludes him from spouse+spousefriends events), and your mention of having asked your spouse to “keep [his friends from that event] away from me” – my bees radar is going off all over the place here.

        Has spouse been at all supportive with the Pat Situation? I saw that Annalee asked about whether or not there’s an exit plan underway at all re: Pat, but I am worried about the way that the combination of Pat and spouse’s actions are socially isolating you, LW 😦

  18. Ugh, how frustrating and draining to have social events constantly turn into “policing Pat so he doesn’t get out of hand” rather than what they should be, which is “a fun night with friends”. If I were LW I would focus on a combination of 1) politely shutting down Pat when he tries his tiresome shit, and 2) organising social events outside the house (without Pat) whenever possible.

    As for LW’s plan to “train Pat out of his grating personality and bad social habits despite that fact that he has given no indication that he is actively willing to change these things or acknowledge he has a problem”, I am extremely doubtful this will work. Maybe I’ve known too many guys (why does it always seem to be guys?) who have this tendency and have never changed how they interact with me no matter how I respond to them, because they just don’t seem to care about other people’s awkwardness or social needs. They do not see conversations as a chance for two people to speak and be heard; they see conversations as a chance for them to lecture to someone and feel smart. The fact that you are annoyed is irrelevant. This has just been my experience, I don’t know if Pat is the same (I hope for LW’s sake he is just a well-meaning, oblivious but willing-to-change kind of dude).

    1. It’s a really good point that talking in this way can signal dismissal of others. For me, how annoying it gets it depends on whether the person values people in other ways. My mother in law is exactly as you describe, and I don’t think she does care about others’ social needs. It’s never been something she’s felt responsible for. But she does and says things that make it clear she cares about the people she’s with. So I’m quite happy listening to her stories (although the repetitions I cannot be putting up with).

  19. LW, just be warned that in the worst case scenario, Pat might get all huffy at you and continue to dominate conversations anyway, in which case you might want to plot a housing exit strategy. I say this because Pat sounds an awful lot like my ex, whose name still makes me shudder nearly three years after I ended our relationship. My Pat took every attempt to get some sweet, sweet silence like a personal affront, and while I did get some silence during the days-long passive aggressive sulks, I couldn’t say those were peaceful periods due to my worry that he was rubbing his dick on everything I owned when I left the house (real concern; he told me he’d once done this to a roommate who had irritated him somehow). Hopefully your Pat will respond well to the scripts CA suggested, but just be prepared for the possibility that Pat is one of those people who isn’t so much socially inept as socially unwilling to give a fuck.

  20. This is a personal nightmare of mine. I’m really unsure about social situations and want to be friendly and extroverted, but there will come a point either mid way through an evening or after an evening when my brain will scream “oh God, you’re talking too much! You’re boring everybody! They don’t want you here!” So this is hitting a really solid emotional core for me from a sort of Pat perspective.

    One thing I think is true is that for me at least the worst thing was have people just politely “put up” with the conversation domination with eyerolls and condescending sorts of frustration while the talker is clueless. For me it feels hurtful and dismissive and doesn’t even let the person in on the truth. If I’m overwhelming conversation or dragging it far off topic, I know I’d prefer a nudge or a pull to the side as a heads up.

    I also know that as hopeful as I can be for social interaction, I hate feeling like an intruder or that I don’t belong in a group. What I’m not sure with what LW is saying about Pat above is if Pat is a welcome part of these groups or just someone everyone makes room for but isn’t actually a friend with. If I’m with friends, it’s often easier to give and take in a conversation. Stilted conversations between those I don’t know tend to be terrifying, for me leading to shutting up entirely , or winding up overtalking, desperately trying to connect. Maybe, giving Pat some cues ahead of time might help. Not just social critiques but like “hey, so and so has a dog they just got and are really excited about, she’d love to share .” or other things about the people to break the ice.

    One thing a friend of mine used to do that broke me out of the cycle a bit was he paid really, really close attention and asked sharp questions. He didn’t simply nod or agree or laugh or some such, he’d be like “how did that make you feel?” or “what would that mean to you?” The first times he did it, it broke me out of the mode where I was talking at and started me talking to him.

    1. Can I offer some internet hugs if you’d like them? Nearly every line of your post had me wincing and nodding. The whole ‘introverts, when socializing, feel like actors’ thing is so real – I can hardly ever relax around people without part of me hanging back and overanalyzing myself (too quiet! they’ll think you’re boring! / too yappy! they’ll think you’re annoying!) or worse, my companions (hmm, is that an ‘I genuinely enjoy this person’s company!’ smile on their face, or a ‘how much longer do I have to put up with this freak for politeness’ sake’ smile?)

      If it helps ease the ‘Which people in my life consider *me* the Pat’ cringes that this post apparently gave you as well, consider that we’re only hearing LW’s perspective, and apparently some of their friends liked hanging out with Pat just fine. So while this thread may offer some tips on leveling-up at conversation, that doesn’t mean people who aren’t perfect at it – which, of course, nobody *is* – can’t still have fun together.

  21. I really don’t see why LW can’t offer Pat a little help–I have always had a lot of trouble making friends, and the description “eager to socialize but insecure” fits me perfectly. If one of my roommates had noticed that I didn’t have a very large social circle and was unhappy, and they wanted to help me meet new people and build friendships, I would be super grateful. It’s something that (despite working on in therapy) I have trouble with asking others for help making friends is just a hard conversation to have.

  22. Ack. I can be Pat-like. Especially when I am excited or eager to please and fit in and ESPECIALLY when I was in my early 20s. RELEASE THE WORD KRAKEN! needs to be an Awkward Army T-shirt. This letter makes me bury my face in my hands and peek at the screen through my fingers.

  23. I talk a lot in social situations because I’m anxious about being with people I know. Or I haven’t seen someone in a long time & feel like I have to give them a story about every single thing I’ve done since I saw them last. I get that the latter is not Pat’s issue. But I want to say that often I find myself talking & I am so completely aware that I need to SHUT UP & I CAN’T! Like my brain is going “ok, FP, that’s long enough stop it now”. One way that a circle of my friends (who were also storytellers who could go on & on) used to handle it was that in 1 on 1 or smaller group conversations, we all had an imaginary bell that we could ring “Ding! Ding! My turn now” & then one friend actually bought old-fashioned school bells & glittered them up (different color for every Femme) & sent them to us. That group no longer hangs out, but I told the story to my BFF & she does interrupt me with “Ding! Ding” & she told that story to a newer friend of mine who also uses it. And when I’m with people who I really want to know that I treasure them I do often sort of count in my head & say “Ok, now FP, ask *them* a question”. Some may think it’s inauthentic if I have to remind myself to ask, but it’s the only way to make it happen & they’re important to me & I want to show them they’re important to me by asking about their life & sometimes the only way to make that asking happen is to give myself little nudges.

    The point is, Pat *may* be somewhat aware of his conversation-dominating tactics & because of spiraling anxiety can’t figure out a way to shut his pie-hole. He may very much appreciate an outside voice (meaning outside of his own head) telling him to let someone else have a chance on the mic,

  24. I’ve never had an attempt to train someone work out well (unless they specifically asked for help) and I know when people act as if I’m their project to be fixed I find it insulting and patronising. I would stick to setting boundaries around how this stuff impacts you and leave the larger question of his social skills/activities and how you would like to change them out of it…

    The ear-bending does sound very annoying (I’ve been the victim of that many times) but let me regurgitate the advice the captain gave when I wrote in for advice on how to extract myself from unwanted conversations. You can actually just walk away. Shut it down. Even if you feel a bit rude doing it. You know how he dominates discussions by talking over you and ignoring hints? You can talk over him too. You can turn to the person next to you and ask a question. You can invite half the group to get a drink with you. Obviously it isn’t always perfect but it seems to be true that what holds us pinned in these situations is usually reluctance to break the social contract and be impolite. But it’s already broken, and there’s no polite way out of it. Listen for a bit, then when it gets too much step away. You don’t have to be mean or cruel to do this, just firm I guess. It takes practice and feels really unnatural at first.
    But it works to extract you from the thing you’re not enjoying.

    And don’t forget as a housemate you can also end discussions after a little while and explicitly ask to be left alone. He’ll either eventually learn better conversational skills or he won’t – it’s not your job to lead him to it. Either way you can just set and enforce boundaries and ask explicitly for what you want.

  25. In my experience, getting Pat to make more friends would really be a great way to solve the problem. I frequently had it pointed out to me by family that I talk too much and bore people, but I only felt able to stop doing it when I found one friend who really listened to all my stories. Now, I am actually able to spend time with people without a) talking all the time or b) not saying anything at all.

    If Pat repeats stories, just point out that you know that story already. That’s the most polite thing – after all, even the greatest story becomes boring if you already heard it a couple of times.

    How long have you shared a flat with Pat? Once you are not “new” anymore, the need to talk should go down to an acceptable level. That’s how it works, in my experience.

  26. P.S. I can’t use the old “I’m sorry, I really need to get this work done” excuse. Because I work in a strange place where there is a very small workflow and plenty of time for him to monopolize my life.

  27. Ooops–it seems that my previous comment did not show up.

    Dear Captain and fellow readers: My Pat is my boss. He talks to anyone and everyone about his hobbies, his philosophies on life, how computers are ruining the world, the moon landing was faked–you name it. No matter how many times you interrupt, leave the room, etc., he picks up right where he left off. Because of the nature of my work, I need to be at my desk at all times. So I can’t leave for an extended period of time and work elsewhere.

    I’ve tried semi-ignoring him, showing little interest, etc. but he does not pick up on social cues. Instead, he used those things against me in my annual review, saying I was “isolating myself from the department” and twisting the whole thing around to make it look like I was not a team player. As a result, I am looking for another job within the institution because he is such a self-centered SOB.

    in the meantime, any suggestions as to how to deal with this asshat? I’m doing the world’s best acting job, pretending I’m interested, cheerful, etc.

    Thanks for listening.

    1. Looking for a new position seems like the best use of your energy on many counts. It seems like he thinks your job IS to sit and listen to his stories, and in the absence of work to do, it kinda is.

      Do you have a coworker who sits nearby who can phone call you when it’s too much? “Boss, hold up one sec, Gandalf’s got the info about the firewhompet I’ve been waiting for.

      Pepper the dude with work questions. “Great story! Hey, do you know how one files a dancejacket with the dragoncouncil?”

      It was shitty for him to do that in your annual review. How is your HR department?

      1. This place is a hotbed of slothdom. My partner says it’s only a matter of time until somebody finds out that just about nothing goes on around here, and I should enjoy the downtime while I can.

        As far as HR is concerned, my understanding is that HR is on the side of the company, not the side of the employee. (According to Ask a Manager). There really isn’t any way to prove that what he says about me is not true, i.e. it’s a case of he says/I say. Also, he is good friends with my coworker, the son of one of the brass at this institution. I think I am in a lose-lose situation, unfortunately.

        Thanks for responding. It means a lot to me.

        1. You’re right about HR as a function being on the side of the company (actually, it’s on the side of “don’t let the company shoot itself in the foot legally”). But individual HR people are … individuals, and they might have suggestions. And HR isn’t on your boss’ side either, at the employee level.

          And the main issue isn’t really that he blamed you in your annual review, the issue is really that he monopolizes your time during the work day. Is it possible to find more work to do? Volunteer for committees? Turn yourself into the tidy-up-the-printrooms fairy? (No, you said you have to stay at your desk.) Does your company offer on-line training? Can you use time to do outside classes? Ultimately, I understand why your bf says what he does, but it’s horrible to be bored at work and it’s really hard to lose the habit of loafing when you get into the next position.

          Can you talk to your boss (or his boss) and just ask for more work?

          And: are you in an area where job-hunting is possible? Is your resume current? It might be that changing jobs is the best route, and even if you change jobs in the same organization, having an up-to-date resume is helpful, partly just because it forces you to think about your skillset.

          Best of luck to you in this frustrating situation.

          1. I’ve tried everything. I offered to have more training so I can help with IT problems (which happens a lot in my position). “No,” he said,” We don’t want to step on IT’s toes.”

            I offered to help in another department. “No,” he said, “Because if we need help sometime, they certainly won’t offer to help US, so why should we help THEM?”

            In response, he gave me an assignment that takes about 20 minutes per week. I finally made friends with someone here who occasionally gives me about 20 more minutes of work per week. She is technically above me and is aware of the situation, and there might be an opening soon that I can apply for. I would really like to stay with the institution because they are giving me tuition reimbursement.

            We don’t have any online training or committees and I have to attend classes on my own time.

            If things don’t change soon/I don’t find an intra-company position soon, I will have to seriously consider leaving. The hours suck, the pay is barely enough and I am learning nothing new or valuable here.

      2. Hey, do you know how one files a dancejacket with the dragoncouncil?

        I don’t even know what this would mean but I really want to do it.

    2. – “Great story, boss, but I really have to get these TPS reports done by 3 pm. So I better get back to work.”

      -“Hey, boss, you wanted these cover sheets filled out by 3 pm, right? I’m making progress, but I better get back to it.”

      -“Oh, shoot, look at the time, I better get cracking if you want those reports you asked for finished up!”

      Basically, turn it back around on him, that you won’t be able to do the things he’s asked you to do unless he lets you get do your damn job. It is difficult for him to argue against you being productive unless he’s a total lunatic. (Which I’ll admit, seems likely.) I really hope you get another job soon, because this is insane.

      1. The problem is, there’s hardly any work in this department. I think if there is ever a change in the higher-ups and they get wind of this, a lot of people are gonna be called on the carpet. For e.g., we have a secretary that comes and goes as she pleases. Disappears around lunchtime and never comes back. And it just goes unchecked.

    1. Ugh, ugh, ugh. That sounds like the job from hell. Here’s hoping you find a new job by Christmas. Jedi hug if you want one.

  28. Pat sounds like a really good one on one friend, and not an in-groups friend.

    I wonder if you could phrase this positively. Like, “Pat, I really like our one on one interactions, but don’t really enjoy our interactions when we’re in a group. Lets do more one on one stuff, but stop interacting in groups. I’ll warn you when I’m having friends over so that you can give me space, and please do the same for me when you have people over. Also, when are you free for more one on one time? We could have a movie night on Friday with just the two of us?”

    This could get across that you really do like some modes of interacting with Pat and want those to continue or increase, while also well-defining the set of spaces where you and Pat don’t do well without trying to fix it. And, well, then Pat would know what is going on and why too.

    1. To me, this would hurt an awful lot more than just being told what actual behaviors of mine were the problem. I would MUCH rather be told that I need to back off in conversations and let other people talk more / not tell long stories that one or more people in the room have heard before / not automatically assume I am invited to every group function without a specific invite, etc., than just written off as a person to have around in groups, period. If it is in fact the case that LW can’t stand Pat in group situations under any circumstances, then this script is probably one of the kinder ways to say it, but the letter itself is asking about specific behaviors that could be discussed honestly before giving up all hope on Pat in any group dynamic.

  29. It sounds like Pat is lonely and under-socialized because he’s not good at making friends. That is Pat’s problem. You are not Pat’s social handler. It is not your responsibility to help him find friends, find his place in your social circle or become a more polished adult. Totally agree with Cap’s advice, disengage and work to build your own social circle.

  30. I’m autistic and this is something I struggle with myself. What helps me is that I’ve expressing given friends and family permission to tell me I’m repeating myself or that I’ve been talking too long. Over the years I’ve gotten much better at monitoring myself to see if I’m doing that.

    But that’s something I’ve initiated myself. If you feel like you’d be comfortable having the conversation AND you think he’d be open to it, I recommend talking to him like, “I think you haven’t realized you’re doing this lately and I’d like a way for us to go about this in the future so that we’re both enjoying the conversation”. But only if you want to do that and think he’d be open to that. You’re not required to do that at all.

    I think Capt’s suggestion of saying stuff like “I’ve heard this before” or whatnot is a good idea. Saying it in a casual and kind-voiced way will make it a lot easier to handle, I think.

  31. Just enjoying the visual of that soul- filling stroll back down the dew-brushed slopes of Reading Mountain as the gathering sunlight flashes a welcome from the windows and rooftops of Chattytown. Now that’s a marriage.

  32. Once I was telling a friend about an incident that happened to me. I got mired in some boring details, and she shut me down with an Evil Willow “Bored now.” and walked away. (She knew I’d catch the Buffy reference.)

  33. Just wanted to say that as a chatty sort myself (who also has some patriarchal habits of talking over people) being told privately “Hey, when you do this thing, it hurts my feelings/makes it difficult for me to participate in the conversation,” absolutely does make me want to improve. After that it’s on me, but anytime someone is willing to go a step further and say in the moment “Z, you’re doing the thing,” I find that SUPER helpful and not at all hurtful, especially when compared with the possibility of silently building resentment.

  34. Oh, gods. I am married to Pat. And he gets *extremely* pouty when I try any of these strategies. I am at the point where I have to let people manage their own boredom. But I wish there was a way to warn people that unless they *forcefully* interrupt, they will be treated to long stories with multiple tangents (at least he is quite an entertaining storyteller.)

  35. I have been a “Pat” in the past. Have no real advice other than what is given here. I know one thing i had to overcome was the idea that I was entitled to participate in discussions or talk about the things I wanted to talk about, because “everyone else gets to talk their stuff.” In the end, Pat is the one who has to make the change, and I agree that the focus for the LW should be on getting the social interactions they need to have and not trying to solve Pat’s problems.

  36. I think that being direct is key. There was a guy in my friend group that was like this, he always had something to say and made sure everyone heard it. We asked him to let other people talk, but then he would be quiet just long enough to let one other person say one thing before launching into it again. Finally we explained it like this – Take the number of people in the conversation and convert that into a percentage and then only talk that percentage of the time. For example, if there are 5 people in the conversation, then he gets to talk for 20 percent of the time. Breaking it down like that helped him get it and though sometimes he would go over, it gave him the frame of reference for how much was appropriate

  37. For future commenters, I just want to summarize what the LW has added in comments:

    Point of order, Pat is not paying rent. Kindhearted spouse took him in because he got kicked out of his old place and can’t really afford to live anywhere right now.

    My spouse has a “private” event semi-regularly with some friends of his I don’t want to hang out with and Pat initially took that kind of personally until I explained it was private by my request to keep them away from me. I’m still not sure if that explanation “fixed” the problem or if he even believed me, but I think it’s kind of out of my hands what he chooses to do with that information.

    Yes, and most of them have already sided against Pat for various past issues so they are pretty useless even as a support system for me at this point. We couldn’t even get any of them to come to our house for months because they were boycotting Pat. it got to the point where we were like “welp. guess it’s time to make new friends…” (A Plan I am still pursuing) before they finally seemed to mostly get over themselves. But they are happy to pile on immediately if I have the slightest complaint so they are off limits to me for discussing Pat now.

    Summary: The problem with Pat dominating conversation is the tip of a bee-filled iceberg.

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