Advice Sought: unnecessary chatter

Ok after several frustrating arguments, I’ve decided to throw to settle our dispute in this forum. (Sorry since I’ve started working from home, I see entirely too much People Court :smiley: ) Anyway here’s the situation: Unless I’ve been drinking I’m not a very big conversationalist. This manifest itself most noticeably in the fact that I don’t respond to statements that don’t seem to require a response.

A typical example: My wife is in the closet, she’ll say “I think I’ll where a dress today”. If we aren’t going anywhere that would obviate the need for a dress this statement doesn’t seem to me to require a response. So I don’t say anything. She then says, "I wish you’d say something” which then of course leads to an argument. I mean what, am I supposed to launch in to a soliloquy about the virtues of dresses or something?

Another example is this: I’m reading a book. My wife (or one of the boys) comes over and says “Stuffy/Daddy?” I put down the book, and look at her, or whomever, awaiting the question or whatever. For some reason the fact that I haven’t said what, or yes, or hmmm, seems to irritate her. Despite the fact that I’ve stopped whatever I was doing and am giving whomever my undivided attention.

Now don’t get me wrong, it not like you have to pull teeth to talk to me, it’s just that in some situations, if it doesn’t seem to require it, I don’t say anything. Sometimes when this happens, I’ll even ask her, “What was I supposed to say” she’ll answer vaguely, “I don’t know, but say something”. I swear I told here one day I’m just going to start saying ‘something”, just to convince her I’m not ignoring her. Does this make me that weird? I can’t be the only person in the world this way.

Are you me?

I have this same problem with Mr. Athena and I. He’s the chatty one, I’m not. I’ve learned that when he says something - even something that in my mind doesn’t require a response - I still have to say something or he thinks I’m ignoring him. I try to remember this, but invariably we get into arguements every once in a while because the response I gave wasn’t enthusiastic enough or loud enough or something.

I haven’t come up with a solution, but I’ll be watching this thread closely.

Well, I’m not a huge talker either, but I have gotten annoyed at people when they do this to me (yes I am a woman!)… and I think it’s b/c the lack of verbal response- even in situations where you’re “obviously” paying attention- is construed as a sort of failure-to-engage in the situation. Verbal is ACTIVE, listening is PASSIVE. Does that make sense?

BTW, a “well, I think…” is infinitely better than a “hmmm.” but, with people like you, we have to take what we can get! :smiley:

My brother is a non-responder, and it drives me batshit.

“Um-hm” will suffice. It’s simply an audible acknowledgment that you’re listening. “Okay” also works for this.

“I think I’ll wear a dress today.”

“Uh, hon…?”

Force yourself.

As one of the chatty people, I think you should make something of an effort. Not responding makes the person think you are either not listening or purposely ignoring them. How is anyone supposed to know that you’re paying attention if you don’t even say “mmm-hm?” Should they repeat themselves until they sound like a three-year-old trying to get your attention?

In the chatty person’s head, this leads straight into all sorts of larger issues. Doesn’t he listen to what I’m saying? Is he mad at me and refusing to answer? Does he value me as a person, or am I just a talking piece of furniture, unworthy of respect or utterance?

IMO the answer here is to realize that she (and most other people) need some kind of a response in order to feel like you respect them as human beings, so make an effort and acknowledge their comments. Then, she needs to realize that you don’t always remember to do that, and it doesn’t mean she’s being belittled. If you make the effort, she will feel more loved and want to do things for you in return–and incidentally probably cut you a little slack. Think of it as an effort you make to show her you love her.

Until you mentioned a child, I was sure you were my husband!

When my husband does this, his lack of a response makes me feel ignored. Should I have to present all my sentences in the form of a question in order to be acknowledged? Also, responding is not only the polite thing to do, it helps cut down on confusion. If I say “Don’t forget to put your dish in the sink”, without a response how do I know he’s heard me. Or if he’s just ignoring me so he won’t have to put the dish in the sink. Or if he thinks I was talking to some one else. A simple grunt would suffice. That’s not much to ask.

Think of it this way - is it easier for you refuse to respond because you *feel * it isn’t necessary, or politely respond so you don’t have an arguement?

Stuffy I’m exactly the same and I’m a woman. My SO would come up with the line to my non response to a statement with “Oh so I guess that doesn’t require an answer”. I’m afraid that is exactly what I used to say when he queried why I didn’t respond to him…“but that didn’t require an answer”.

I am one of the quiet ones and only speak when I have something to say, even though I do give people my full attention and am very polite. Why is it that chatty people assume everyone should be like them? Why should we (quiet people) have to change our personality to make other people feel more comfortable?

There really is no right or wrong here, we all have different personalities. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same?

I think you’re doing yourself a disservice by viewing these things as “unnecessary chatter.”

My wife is in the closet, she’ll say “I think I’ll where a dress today”.
She’s sharing her thought with you, and wants some feedback just in case there’s some reason for her not to wear a dress. If it helps, think of this as a question like “Should I wear a dress today?” A simple “That’ll work” or “Whatever’s comfortable” will confirm that’s she’s not overlooking something. Yes, she can decide to wear a dress without your help. But it’s a compliment that she wants your input on the matter.

I’m reading a book. My wife (or one of the boys) comes over and says “Stuffy/Daddy?” I put down the book, and look at her, or whomever, awaiting the question or whatever.
They want some verbal confirmation that you are indeed ready to listen. It’s a way of “socially greasing” the interaction. Like “please” and “thank you,” the response isn’t critical for communicating, but it makes people feel good.

Inane chitchat about mundane stuff is what I would call unecessary chatter. Two words to acknowledge someone who cares about you is a little more important than that.

Sorry I’m so late getting back.

dangermom said:

See this is the leap I’m incapable of making. I do however think your feelings, as well as my wife’s are valid. It just honestly doesn’t occur to me to talk in certain situations. Til the arguement starts anyway. Cool user name btw.
DaVena said:

See jastu’s post. That’s precisely the feeling that runs through my mind whenever this comes up. Maybe people like us are wired differently.

Gary T I see your point. I’ts not really so much unnecessary chatter, as much as it seems to be that certain statements don’t seem to me to require a response. Or when someone has my direct eye contact, it seems odd that they don’t think I’m engaged yet. I don’t think about this, it’s not like i make a consceince decision not to respond, it just doens’t occur to me to do so.

I’m going to try, I don’t know how sucessful it’ll be though.

I believe it is a necesary part of human conversation to acknowledge reciept of a message even if it is not a question. It lets the initiator know that the reciever heard, or even that he/she is alive and able to hear things.

I compromise and, when at the recieving end of a non-question I will give an appropriate response. In the case of “I think I will wear a dress” I would say “Will you?”
But sometimes I like to offer my opinion or debate what was said. For instance if someone says “I think I’ll wear a dress” I might quickly think about what the weather is like or what the person planning to wear a dress is going to do in the dress, where they are going. And then offer my opinion based on that.

See what happens if when your wif says something that does not require a follow up response you then say “Recieved and understood”.

Here’s some words that may work for you: “Sure.” “Fine.” “Whatever.” “Have fun.” “Knock yourself out.” “Yep.”

Some people are just looking for an acknowledgement that you have heard them.

I’m a quiet person and it’s taken me great effort to answer certain things. If my wife would call from the closet “I think I’m going to wear a dress today”, my first response would be, “Ok, why are you telling me?”

The biggest problem is that in my wife’s family, quiet=upset. I’m constantly being asked whats wrong when I don’t join in on conversations I have no interest in.

Another quiet person checking in.

I think the non-response no non-questions goes with a sort of literal mindedness. It would drive me nuts to live with someone who constantly made statements a/la “I think I’ll wear a dress today” expecting a response. If you want an answer ask a question.

I used to falter on questions like “how are you?” which is (unless you’re at the doctors) just a social niceity, you’re expected to go “fine thanks - and you” or somesuch. I’m more likely to be thinking “well I’ve got a bit of a cold and my legs ache from yesterday’s run and I’m not looking forward to the code review but basically I’m OK”. TMI? well you did ask.

If nothing needs to be said why say it?

The point is that something does need to be said, from the point of view of those of us who are bothered by this silence. As a couple of people have observed, this kind of content-free chitchat is a way of maintaining human connections – it’s the hominid equivalent of grooming behavior in other primates. (See one of my very favorite books, which I flog here pretty regularly: Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Human Language.) Since we as a species are hard-wired for this sort of interaction, those who refuse [sic] to participate in it come across as arrogant in the extreme.

Well, because it’s courteous, companionable, sociable, it doesn’t take a lot of effort and certainly won’t kill anyone.

Most importantly, the OP’s wife, whom he did go to the trouble of marrying after all, has repeatedly indicated that it makes her uncomfortable.

To the OP: Did your wife indicate that she wanted a soliloquy or did she just say a response would be nice? Is there nothing your wife does for you that she would prefer not to or doesn’t come as second nature to her?

When you get married or otherwise enter into a serious relationship, you are no longer the sole arbiter of what is “necessary”. As long as it all remains within reason, it’s called give and take.

If you twist her requests for a little simple human interaction into demands for a “soliloquy” it’s no wonder you get into arguments about it.

Another quiet person here…in my pre marriage days…friends used to drag me out (I’d rather be home reading a book)…then upon our return home say, gee you were very quiet tonight?. I was never sure what to say to that.

I genuinely prefer to to watch and listen opposed to chat idly about something that really has no interest for me.

For the first little while after we were married, hubby used to complain about my non-response to a statement he had made. Because he felt I wasn’t listening he would say something bizarre…just to see. I am pleased to report I have perfected a blank, cold stare which seems to indicate clearly that; yes, I heard him and no, I felt no reponse was appropriate.


Althoughj I have to admit, am extremely envious of those who can walk into a room, carry on a conversation with just about everyone and seem to have a great time!

Are you also pleased that your unresponsiveness puts your husband in a position to have to say ridiculous things in order to see if you’re listening? This might seem to you to be a minor thing but what it really is, is a selfish refusal to understand and attempt to meet a basic need of your husbands.

If people around you, including your husband, have repeatedly indicated that they feel that you’re ignoring them, how likely is it that they’re all wrong? What is so hard about making a little effort to be responsive to other people?

Human interaction (and maturity) requires that we understand other’s needs instead of stubbornly insisting that everyone understand ours only.

Have you ever read the Dirk Gently books?

“Oh, Ah”

That’ll work in most any circumstance.

My dad’s a non-responder, but the issue with him is if he doesn’t hear his name he thinks that he’s not being spoken to.

Whoa, Triss…I never said other people had nothing to say…perhaps it’s I who have nothing to say.

He knows I’m listening…and he’ll tell you that. He just sometimes need reassurance, like I’m sure we all do at times. When he says, on vacation, “what shorts should I wear?”, is he really expecting an answer? I say somethign along the lines of “whatever ones you want, darling”…however it’s needless because he can decide by himself and, since we’re both getting older, there are times when we talk to ourselves (may start another thread on that). Perhaps I gave the wrong impression the first post.

A very close friend of mine was blessed with the ability to walk into a room, have something to say to everyone, whether they be rocket scientists or sweepers, and would walk out at the end having spoken to everyone and enjoying it. I admire the hell out of him. Whereas I can walk into a group knowing zero people and pretty much walk out at the end knowing just as many as I did when I got there.

I have never developed the knack (partially because I’m an only child) of making idle conversation. I wish I had. It’s a great gift.

I don’t expect everyone to cater to my posiition, but on the other hand, it’s difficult to find an answer to the question “gee, you’re awfully quiet”.

“Yes, I am” seems to be a conversation ender and makes the other person uncomfrotable.

“Just thinking” leads to questions I don’t have answers for.

“Just quiet, that’s all” doesn’t seem to work either.