How Do You Give Back a Conversation to Someone Who's Checked Out?

Thoughtful – Huh?

Ever patiently listened while another person talked? Ever planned a mental vacation while someone, so completely wrapped up in expressing the details of a thought, didn’t notice you had checked out?

Yeah, I’ve been in there, too.

But yesterday, at least once, I was the one who forgot that I was supposed to let someone else talk. I wandered through my head while I lost the chance to hear another person’s thoughts. He was miles away before I realized he was gone. By that time, the conversation had gone woefully, off course. I wish that guy would have found a way to turn me “off.”

He was generous when I apologized, but by then, he was done. Hope he, at least, had found a mental vacation spot more intriguing than the subject I’d been endlessly exploring without him.

How do you give back a conversation to someone who’s checked out?

–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!


  1. says

    If the other person doesn’t want to engage with you and pay attention, that’s their problem. Sure, we try not to bore people to death, but the other person has to do some work, too. How do I know this? Because it’s what I do to people if I’m not careful. Monkey mind goes wandering… :)

  2. says

    I’m the one guy who can never “disengage” from someone who is wrapped up in either their private universe or a P.O.V. that may indeed be global in scope, yet exclusive in nature. Is it wrong to feel that it may be rude to be the one to say, “hey – I’m standing here too?” That never happens, of course. My tactic is to get them off of a monologue, find something in their soliloquy that I can latch onto and ask them about. Seems that a lot of these folks are sort of pre-rehearsed and all it takes is someone who truly listens to dig deeper than the surface noise and connect with them, force the give-and-take gently.

    And if that doesn’t work – I find a good “laugh point”, something we can both laugh about, and then end with – “well thanks, catch you later.”

  3. Greg says

    Giving back the conversation is like unringing, it can not be done.

    It takes the rebuilding of some level of trust to get the conversation back to taht place.

  4. says

    Speaking as a consummate rambling babbler, I have often found that keeping a close watch on the eyes of my audience (those brave souls who actually listen to me) is a sure sign that I’m getting off track or focusing on one person too much.

    This doesn’t always work of course since it’s difficult to keep your eye on any blank stares that might crop up when you’ve found yourself walking off the conversational trail with someone else or just you and your thoughts.

    I’m more than guilty of losing someone out of the conversation. Sometimes I get them back and sometimes I don’t. I can’t really tell you how since for me it completely depends on the individual left out, the other people involved and where the conversation went from there.

  5. says

    That’s a great point, Michael, that conversation is a two-way street. Maybe when we’re on the “listening” side of a monologue, we all need to learn ways to say, “Hey, ahem, are you seeing me here?”

    Thanks for the ways that you’ve all offered to engage and disengage when the situation comes up.

    Just when I think I have this one conquered, it’s a lesson I fing myself taking on again. :)

  6. says

    What’s hard is when you commit this “sin” on your blog. At least in a face to face communication – you can watch the other person “check out”. On your blog – all you get is silence in the comments!

    (BTW Kirk – you got me with your confession of being a consummate rambling babbler. I’m heading over to your blog now!)

  7. says

    Kathy; You’re more than welcome of course and I’ll always freely admit to my rambling ways. And as Liz well knows I can be terribly wordy on top of it. You can always let me know if you fall asleep while reading. :)

    Sorry for taking up your comment space, Liz. You can have it back now. 😉

  8. says

    I ran into this last night LOL. I get so excited talking of things I’m interested in that I have to remember that not everyone else is so captivated.

    We were at a networking meeting, so I stopped and said, “I’m sorry, I’m keeping you from meeting other people and networking, ” and paused. Both said they were interested in the topic, so we continued (it was about twitter and facebook). But I did stop a few times during the discussion to give them a chance to get away LOL

  9. says

    Turning off Liz? LOL! That would be a patentable process for sure 😉

    Have to admit that I personally find it irritating when folks zone out on me. Which is why I really focus on making short work of anything I have to say on, pretty much anything.

    Didn’t someone say something about having two ears and one mouth, hence listen twice as much as you speak? That is pretty much what I generally aspire towards (though my success rate is somewhat less than 100% 😉 )

  10. says

    Sheila, Kathy, and Kirk.
    I would have answered you… but I’d checked — nO :)

    Seriously, I enjoyed your comments. The gracious apology does work much better face to face when you actually know that someone has checked out of the rambling that we do. You’re all brilliant!

  11. says

    Hi Joann!
    I know, sometimes with new people it’s hard to be sure they’re not just great at acting interested but if they’re THAT good at acting. Hey, they made the investment. :)

  12. says

    Michael’s right – if someone checks out, it’s their fault.

    But it’s my fault if I keep talking even though I notice that they might be checking out.

    I just say: “What’s going on?” and throw the ball in their court.


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