Dear Annie: Help! I have several friends and a stepdaughter who are lovely, thoughtful and kind people. The problem is that they talk solely about themselves, both on the phone and in person. They rarely, if ever, ask any questions about my life, my activities or my family members. If they do take a moment and ask about me and I then speak for 30 seconds, they immediately change the subject back to their lives and continue in great detail. It feels as if I am there just to listen to these folks prattle on, because they show no interest in me. Is there a way to redirect the conversation so I can feel as if these relationships are more mutually inclusive and not so one-sided? -- Frustrated
Dear Frustrated: Even the best people can get a little egocentric at times, especially in the company of a great listener. Be forthright about your wanting time to share. Try saying something along these lines: "Wait. Before we get off the subject, I want to finish this story. Is that OK?" "May I tell you about my visit with my mother?" The fact that you're asking permission to speak about yourself will make them stop and reflect on why you had to ask. If they're thoughtful people as you said, that should be enough to clue them in.
Dear Annie: Am I the only person who is annoyed by cellphone rudeness? When guests come to my house and sit down, there has to be a place where they can put their phone for easy access, either resting on the arm of the chair or out on the coffee table. It's the same when I go out for dinner or to a bar. People move the salt and pepper shakers, etc., just to make room for their cellphones. Recently, some family members of mine took this to a new low. We had all attended a funeral and were gathering at a restaurant afterward. Someone was texting another person -- who was also sitting right there at the table! We all saw that they were texting each other. I just could not believe that someone could be so rude to the bereaved family members who had invited us.
I wonder: Before texting came into existence, would people have sat at a dinner table and had a phone conversation in front of others? -- Manners, Please
Dear Manners: Are you the only person who is annoyed by cellphone rudeness? That would be a resounding "no." Fixating on a smartphone when in a social setting is not just bad manners; it's bad for the soul, causing us to care less about real-life connections with other human beings. Unfortunately, the practice is becoming so common that it has a nickname: "phubbing" (a portmanteau word derived from "phone" and "snubbing"). If a loved one's phubbing is making you feel unimportant, why not tell the person how you feel? After all, a good old-fashioned face-to-face heart-to-heart would be refreshing.
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