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Monday question: Butt out, please

Posted by Robin Abrahams  April 4, 2011 05:36 AM

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Here's an existentialist-flavored one for you: 

I enjoy having conversations with people. What I don't enjoy are the times when I am happily or seriously chatting away with someone only to have a random stranger sitting or standing nearby suddenly sticking themselves into my conversation, either answering a question directed at me or my companion, or else inserting their own opinions on our topic of discussion. I find it really insensitive and rude. I am not talking to them, so why do they feel like they should just butt in? How can I tell these people politely that I find their actions rude and insensitive without coming off as rude myself? Is there a polite way to tell them that they have no business in our conversation, or does the fact that my conversations are audible render them free-game for public comment?

What do you think? I'm very curious to hear your responses on this one. I'll post my own thoughts, and summarize your advice, on Friday (and come on back here at noon on Wednesday, for a live chat!). 
This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Who is Miss Conduct?

Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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