8

Three of us at the table having dinner. A buddy is talking in a long-winded way about a business idea he has. The idea is pretty unoriginal (import anything from China and sell it on Amazon). As he has no actual experience in the area, there is little insight he can offer. Why talk about this so long?

My buddy, like everyone else, needs to be respected and heard out. Just because someone might be at a different level in say business thinking, he still deserves to be respected.

How do I balance the above with my instinct to shoot him down. I must admit I do tend to be overly critical.

Do I steer the conversation in a new direction where he has more interesting things to say? I don't want to offend him... I tend to be passive and not take control, more the listener. Should I just see less of him or try to avoid the "business-idea-brainstorming" type activity with him?

  • 1
    Do you give your buddy a fixed time to do the presentation? Or do you let him continue talking until he runs out of things to say? – user8671 Oct 19 '18 at 10:15
  • It's an informal setting, sorry, so he can talk as long as he wants or as long as someones wrestles the word from him. I said "presentation", because it's a one-sided thing, he's just talking at us – M3RS Oct 19 '18 at 10:40
6

Let's be honest - if it wasn't an informal setting among friends and he was actually pitching a business idea to investors he wouldn't get away with talking for so long. If this was The Apprentice or Dragon's Den he'd get cut off mid-flow.

Although you clearly respect your friend's right to speak and don't want to offend him, actually in this informal setting you probably have a lot more leeway to speak frankly without causing offence than you would if it was formal.

To encourage him to get the point and bring the subject to a conclusion, I would try this approach - interrupt him at an appropriate point, but stay on the subject. You're cutting him off, but you're not shutting him down.

Perhaps say:

This sales pitch is a bit long. You'd never get anyone to invest with a drawn-out pitch like this. Let's break this down. Your business idea is to buy things cheaply direct from China, then resell them at a profit on sites like Amazon?

This shows (i) that you have been listening to him because you have been able to summarise his pitch, and (ii) that you are interested in it because your criticism is constructive and you want to make it better.

See how he responds. Hopefully what he says from here on will be shorter and to the point, and the subject will soon be exhausted. It may be that he was meandering and repeating himself because you were just letting him speak openly without interruption.

Interrupting someone isn't always rude. Sometimes people just talk and talk until they get something back from the other party. Look for them pausing, slowing down, or sending non-verbal signals that they have exhausted what they want to say. But even if you don't get any of those signals, when someone has dominated the conversation for long enough it is fair to interrupt.

If this approach doesn't shorten his pitch and bring the subject to a conclusion, then you could say:

Well I am interested in what you have to say, but I don't want to talk about business all night.

Either invite him to "wrap things up" if he still has something left to say and you don't want to offend him, or feel free to call time on it and change the subject if you've had enough. Being honest with him is better than just seeing less of him, because at least he has the choice to modify the behaviour that is getting you down.

1

Cutting someone off isn't disrespect or a sign of boredom, at least not always. Knowing that, you can try to take any direction with the conversation following what you want to speak about. This is the goal of your interuption. But remember that how you interupt him is up to how you interact together : formal? And are you close ? Are you about the same age?

My global advice would be to wrap the interuption with a well-choosen compliment. Do not lie, just tell the truth

Nice idea you got there, I think it could be rewarding

With that line you show him that you don't cut him off because you don't care.

Then, if you are into it and want him to give more details, you should say something like

But we all know how it works. What do you actualy plan to do?

Or if you want to speak about something else, you could go for somthing like this :

But come on! We aren't here to talk about business. What about [this specific thing you all like to do]

Or anything else that you want;

But you got the point : if you want to speak about something else, just give it a try. Chances are that your other friend was wanting that too. And if you don't like what you are curently talking about, you will show it with non verbal language, wich could be seen as an insult by the one talking. Remember that most people prefer a hard but polite truth rather than a fake smile.

1

When I'm in a conversation and someone is going on and on about a subject that doesn't interest me, or where he has beaten the subject to death, my general approach is to try to take something about what he said and make a statement that goes off on a tangent.

Like he's talking about importing merchandise from China. So if you're interested in politics, you might say:

I wonder if you'd run into trouble with the administration's new tariffs on imports from China.

And then launch into a discussion about politics. Or say:

Yes, China produces some fascinating products. I just bought an X that was made in China ...

Where "X" is something that you are interested in.

Or say how his discussion of transporting the merchandise in ships reminds you of a cruise you went on recently. Or whatever.

If these examples sound contrived, think about other casual conversations you've had. People often go off on tangents only loosely related to what was said before.

In a friendly talk we think nothing of it. Your friend may be disappointed that the conversation has steered away from what he wanted to talk about, but unless you're very clumsy about it, he needn't even realize that you deliberately changed the subject.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.