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An acquaintance of mine, Troy, can shut down a party quicker than a police raid. Worse, he has no intention of doing so.

Take last Sunday afternoon for an example. About thirty of us gathered at a local golf club after church for a leisurely lunch. Seated on both sides of two long tables, first one and then another opened a new discussion topic. “What are you thinking about the elections?” Two or three jumped in with opinions. Then Troy. “You have to look at this upcoming election historically.” He waxed on for two or three minutes, providing historical “significance” for the elections rather than mere opinion.

Then someone asked for an update on the investigation into the latest terrorist threat. Troy gave a full report, including how-tos on prevention. Someone changed the subject to the latest movies. You guessed it: Troy gave us a lengthy rundown on all the reviews, told us which reviewers were most credible, explained how the movie got its funding, and ended with how much money the average movie made over its lifetime. By the fourth time Troy had hijacked the conversation to “explain” things to us, a deadly pall had fallen over the table. One by one, guests left the table to form smaller chat groups around the room.

As I said, Troy can disperse a crowd faster than a deranged gunman—with only his mouth loaded. A little expertise engages—just not on every topic.

Share Air Time

Be conversational, but not captivating. Okay, if you’re dating, aim for captivating in the charming sense of the word. But otherwise, don’t take prisoners. Those around you should not feel trapped when you talk.

Lessons learned from Troy? Let me contradict New York City’s “If you see something, say something” slogan where conversation is concerned: Just because you know something doesn’t mean you have to say something. If the thought occurs that you may be rambling on too long, you are. If people often cut you off with, “I’ve got it,” you’re probably being repetitive.

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