DEAR ABBY: I come from a nice family. My siblings are thoughtful and kind, but one of my brothers is a conversational narcissist. He drones on for hours (if we let him) without asking a single question to engage another person.
He sees nothing wrong with talking endlessly about his work and his acquisitions, which interest no one. He will compare, indirectly, my home with his, assuming that his is far superior and better decorated — never considering that my home is just right for me and that I do not lust for more. All of us listen to him and do our best to show an interest without ever receiving that courtesy in return.
How can we nudge him toward showing an interest in others? In his times of need, I have been there for him and listened to his troubles, and I have gotten the impression that he’s kinder than any of us have assumed, given his self-centered ramblings. Is there any way to influence him toward being a more thoughtful conversationalist? — SORE-EARED SIBLING
DEAR SIBLING: Yes, there is. “Someone” is going to have to tell this brother — in as gentle language as possible — that hogging the conversation is as unwelcome as hogging all the food at the buffet. He should also be told that comparing what he has to that of his siblings, who may have less, comes across as bragging, which makes them uncomfortable.
If no one has the courage to address this, a group intervention may be needed to stanch the motormouth. However, if this is more than any of you want to risk, see this sibling separately one-on-one. If he’s not playing to a crowd, he may behave differently.
DEAR ABBY: My ex-husband and I divorced three years ago after he had an affair and destroyed our lives (including his daughter’s, who considered me her only real mom). The divorce took about a year. Since then, he has stopped communicating with me and pretends I never existed. My stepdaughter, “Dana,” however, never let go.
I held on as well for a couple of years, but as time goes on, I am feeling I’m in an increasingly impossible situation. What my ex did and his actions that followed were incredibly cruel. They devastated me. Staying in touch with Dana has slowly become a painful reminder of that and has made it difficult for me to close this unhappy chapter of my life.
I don’t want to hurt Dana. I hope that one day she’ll understand, but I feel the need to cease contact in order to heal fully. Is this too cruel? — TRAUMATIZED IN FLORIDA
DEAR TRAUMATIZED: What a sad situation. I’m sorry you feel there is no other way to heal from your ex-husband’s betrayal than to distance yourself from Dana, who loves you. However, feeling as you do, you must take care of yourself. Please do not “ghost” her. It is important that you explain to her, as kindly as possible, your reasons for ending your relationship, so she understands this is not her fault.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)