Dear Margo: No Need to Get Trapped on the Phone

How do I deal with long-winded friends? Margo Howard’s advice

No Need To Get Trapped on the Phone

Dear Margo: I am often waylaid by a few friends who think nothing of tying up my time for hours on the telephone. I have tried being polite, and I have tried being rude — just short of hanging up — but nothing seems to get through to them. One of them has said to me about a mutual friend who clearly has the same problem that I do, “What else does he have to do?” Well, I read, I listen to music, I watch television, I write, I eat meals and snack, and I go out.

I have normal phone conversations with other people. What makes these telephone people think I want to spend two hours listening to them tell me about their meals in boring detail, how much they paid for yogurt at the supermarket, or how long it took them to get into town via the “T”? Is there a way that I can politely make it clear that even though I like them, I cannot tie up that much of my evening essentially talking about nothing? –Extremely Annoyed but Too Polite, in Boston

Dear Ex: I can’t quite figure out your seemingly unbreakable attachment to these bores who can’t take a hint, or why you would allow these phone talkers to tie you up for hours! When I get caught in an overly long or pointless phone call, I simply say, “Gotta go!” and no one argues with me. Your sense of politesse is misspent in this instance. If you don’t have it, get caller ID and then don’t pick up. Or: Tell each of these clods, once they begin their food and yogurt recital, that you really must run, and then HANG UP the phone. All you need to do is decide you will not be held hostage to these time wasters. It’s not that hard. (Brainflash: Introduce these people to each other!) –Margo, decisively

Guests or Customers?

Dear Margo: My husband and I own two timeshare weeks. The unit we use is a two bedroom, with the master bedroom being the nicer of the two, offering better amenities and views. We have not only paid for these weeks, but also pay a fairly hefty maintenance fee annually.

On occasion, when my husband is unable to go, I will invite a friend or two to go with me. Because I invited them, I do not ask or expect them to pay me a fair share of the maintenance fee that has been paid for the week. It would, however, be nice if they would at least offer. (I have yet to receive such an offer). Also, should I be prepared to let my guests occupy the master suite? Should guests offer to pay for a rental car or a couple of dinners since they have no costs for the week? I don’t know if guests are just unaware of the annual costs involved with timeshares or if they are just mooching! What is proper in this situation? — Just Don’t Know

Dear Just: Are you a hostess or an innkeeper, and are your friends guests or paying customers? When people receive an invitation to a vacation house, they do not think to ask, “How much will this cost?” — nor should they. As for a dinner or two out, that is somewhat standard for houseguests, but ixnay on the rental car.

If, however, money is a concern, when you issue these invitations, tell the friends what the cost will be. Some people may be up for it and willing to pay, while others will pass. It sounds as though you think your guests ought to pay — in which case, you can’t expect them to figure this out themselves. Do know, however, that when issued an invitation — with no mention of money — the person is in no way mooching. (And the hostess never gives up the master bedroom unless she wishes, for whatever reason, to make that generous gesture.) –Margo, correctly

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via e-mail to dearmargo@creators.com. Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.

COPYRIGHT 2011 MARGO HOWARD
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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56 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Nancy Pea says:

    hey, for once i’m in total agreement of both letters. LW#1: if you don’t like what they have to say or how long they say it, then it sounds like you shouldn’t even be friends with them. although i do not agree with just avoiding their phone calls with caller ID. for that you might as well just dump them as friends. if i cannot talk to a person on the phone i certainly cannot talk to them in person and i tend to be long winded. but if somebody let’s me know what’s going on i’m totally thrifty with my call time (i also have long winded friends so we are pretty okay with each other). i respect others time as valuable. but if they are going to totally avoid me at all costs when why are we friends?
    but everything else i agree upon.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      I had a friend that does this. She’ll call me and then spend as much time as I let her – just for the heck of it I timed her one day, two hours straight – babble on about all of her problems, all of which are self-inflicted and easily resolved. She’s not interested in real solutions, she’s not interested in any human being but herself, and she’s very, very tedious. 

      She drones. It’s crazy-making. Finally, I decided not to answer when I see her number, then check my messages. Since all she wants to do is talk about herself, she never leaves a message. Once, she called me back, demanding to know why I didn’t return her call. I said that since she hadn’t left a message, I assumed it wasn’t important. She was quite annoyed, but she doesn’t try that on me very much any more. 

      I made that my policy – no message, no call back. it’s freed up my time like you wouldn’t believe.

      • avatar Shelly Kroll-Hancock says:

        Why are you friends with this person?  I had a friend like this as well, we are no longer friends because all she cares about and talks about on an on is her.

  2. avatar Katharine Gray says:

    There are only 2 people I talk to on the phone with for longer than it takes to convey the message, make plans for getting together, etc.:  my sister who lives in another state (we talk about every week to 10 days and catch up on family news; and a good friend who lives in another state (we talk about every 4-5 months and catch up on news).  They are about the most interesting people in my life but I cannot imagine talking to them on a daily basis for an hour or more…none of us are THAT interesting. 

    Caller ID is a wonderful invention.  If you cannot bring yourself to say *listen, I have to go now…bye and then hang up* just don’t take the call to begin with.

    LW#2:  I’m sort of speechless.  I have a very modest 2nd home on a very nice island off the coast of Massachusetts and I spend about 4 months there each year.  My husband comes and goes as his schedule allows.   I’m just guessing that our mortgage and maintenance on this home is a little bit more expensive than your time share expenses.  While I enjoy every minute I am there with my husband or by myself with my cats, I also like to have company and am thrilled when friends accept my invitation to visit for a few days or a week or so.  It has never occurred to me to expect my GUESTS, who did not solicit the invitation and have gone to some expense to travel to spend time with me, to offer to pay *rent* for their time there.  Usually, they bring a nice hostess gift, treat me to a nice dinner out, and, if staying for longer than a few days, will volunteer to buy some wine or groceries.   But all I expect is that they will have a good time.

    As a hostess, I do not give up the master bedroom to guests unless there is some reason (like elderly parents having trouble with stairs or something) that the guest room will not work for them.   However, if I were charging my guests *rent*…they might be forgiven for expecting to have the best accommodations avaiable for their money.

    Over the years, when our schedule did not permit me to be there so much, friends have asked to *use* our house for their vacation (without us present).  My overly generous husband allowed this WAY too often and I did resent those who came and stayed and left behind a hostess gift consisting of a candle. (Others were more generous and left gift certificates for local restaurants etc).    But, that was OUR fault and after one family left the window open above the  computer in our loft office, that program ended. 

    I suspect your friends believe that if you have the timeshare, you can afford it with or without their financial assistance and that your invitation is because you desire their company and not their money. 
     

    • avatar David Bolton says:

      LW1’s letter stumps me, because I’m not sure why anyone would find him interesting enough to talk to on the phone. Oh wait—it must be that fantastic hobby he has of “snacking.” Be sure to put that on your resume, buddy.
       
      As far as LW2: she’s being a little passive-aggressive about the whole thing. All she has to do is say, “Hey, I’ve got a timeshare that’s paid for this week—wanna come? I just need someone to help me with the groceries/rental car/whatever—is that okay?” I get the feeling that she’s looking more for someone to put forth some effort, rather than go in halfsies. Another way she could approach it is to have a “standby” list—and make it clear that if something opens up, the person is expected to pay for their food and partly for transportation costs.

  3. avatar Karin Smith says:

    LW1: People respond according to the limitations you set on them. If you don’t set any limits on these chatty friends, they will think it’s perfectly acceptable to bend your ear for hours; however, if you give them firm boundaries (and stick to them!), they will either conform to the change or stop contacting you altogether.

    My husband mentors a young man (call him “Jim”) who is very talkative, has severe ADD, and doesn’t pick up on basic social cues very well at all. Jim would call my husband multiple times a day “just to talk”; the often lengthy conversations were exhausting because he talked so fast and constantly jumped from topic to topic.
    Finally, my husband explained to Jim that he needed to put limits on the calls, because they were interfering with his life. First, he gave a specific window of time (e.g. from 1-5pm) when he’d take Jim’s calls; any calls outside of that time period would be ignored. Second, he put a limit on the number of calls he would take (e.g. no more than 3 calls a day). Finally, he told Jim to leave a voicemail if it was something really important, otherwise he wouldn’t return his call. (Jim had a chronic habit of calling and not leaving a message.)

    Within a week or two, Jim had adapted to the boundaries my husband set. Once he understood the limits, his constant calls decreased to a reasonable level, and his conversations were less rambling (because now his time was limited!), and therefore, less exhausting.
    You can be polite while setting firm limits with your friends. If you stick to your guns, the obnoxious ones will eventually stop calling you altogether, and the ones who are just clueless will (hopefully!) get the message and change their behavior.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      the problem here is the HUGE difference between “friends” and “people my husband mentors.”
       
      yes, the kid adjusted to the limits, because he is much more like an employee than a friend.
       
      it might work on straight-up friends, but probably not as well. they are “equals” in your relationship (unlike this kid) and therefore will likely have more of a problem obeying “rules” you lay down for them.

      • avatar sueb1997 says:

        I disagree.  It doesn’t have to be “rules” or a hierarchical lesson from a superior to a lesser, as in “let me teach you how to interact with people”.  It can easily be between equals, one friend to another, saying “this is what works for me, please respect that.”

        I have friends who don’t like to be disturbed at certain times of day.  They either ask ahead of time not to be contacted at those times, or they “train” the rest of us by not responding when it’s not a good time for them.  In fact, I’m one of those folks — I don’t like phone chats in general, but tolerate some level of them because it’s what most people use to interact.  But I do tell me friends “please don’t call me after 8pm” because that’s what works for me.  No one thinks I’m looking down on them or teaching them manners, just asking them to respect my personal boundaries.

  4. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Letter 1 I solved that problem long ago with an answering machine. I think that I had one of the earliest models to come out. I told friends and family to leave a message if I didn’t pick up because I might not hear the phone ring. This enabled me to avoid the long winded people with nothing but time on their hands. Caller ID means I can take a call instantly if it is a number that I recognize without filtering through the answering machine.

  5. avatar Elaine says:

    One solution for the phone bores is to lie.  You simply tell them that you’ve been keeping a secret from them, that your hearing has just gotten really bad, the doctors are working on finding a solution, but it’s “something neurological” (keep it vague) and it’s really hard for you to hear what they’re saying and would rather not waste their time with long conversations. How considerate you’ll sound to them!  When people impose on me, I have absolutely no conscience pangs about saying anything and everything that will get them off my back. This is one of those cases.

    As for the time-share problem, my opinion, for what it’s worth, is that if fees and expenses are prohibitive enough to have you wanting to charge your friends to help you, maybe you shouldn’t own a time-share. Sorry, but some co-workers and I were having this discussion just this week. A shocking number of people bought time-shares and have deep regrets about it. Maybe this issue is simply a sign that you should reevaluate how you’re spending your money in the long term.  True, if your friends are really getting a free vacation, they should spring for extras such as rental cars and meals. They should also treat you to show their appreciation. But you signed on for the cost of the time-share and that responsibility is yours.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      lying about a health issue that you don’t really have… seems like a bad idea to me on several levels.
       
      but maybe i’m just being superstitious.

    • avatar Diagoras says:

      Why lie when the truth is much simpler? “I have to go. I’ll talk to you later.” Click. Simple. Easy. No lies involved.

  6. avatar Pdr de says:

    I have a long-time friend who, when she calls, grills me about my life, the lives of my children, pets, other friends and never offers up much at all about hers.  Politically we are at opposite ends of the poles and I have told her that if she wants to preserve our friendship, we should agree to disagree and not discuss politics at all.  She stays on the phone for a long time.
    I’ve found two solutions – one, check caller ID and if I’m just not up to talking with her, simply don’t pick up the phone.  Two, when I answer and our greetings are finished, I tell her (and last night it was the truth), that there is an important program that begins in a half hour (or I have to leave the house) and that’s all the time I have to talk with her.  As she ages, she’s become more irascible and prickly and I think she may be developing some mental problems.  She has few, if any, friends because she’s very outspoken and strongly opinionated – she’s a good person at heart, rescues animals, especially feral cats – has them spayed and neutered, frees them and then goes out and feeds them every night.  I don’t want to cut her off completely but I now decide whether I am in the mood to speak with her at any given time and, for the most part, determine how long I’ll speak with her. Once I was so desperate to get off the phone I knocked on the wall – my sleeping dog leaped to her feet and began barking, as I had hoped she would, and I was able to say I had to hang up because someone was at the door.

    • avatar Diagoras says:

      In my opinion, if you can’t discuss political, religious or philosophical differences in a polite and friendly manner and have to resort to avoiding certain subjects, then what you have is an acquaintance, not a friend.

  7. avatar wendyblueeyes says:

    You would have to pay the yearly maintenance fees regardless of if you used the week or you didn’t. How does that obligate your guest? It’s not any more expensive because you have a guest. Your guest should treat you to dinner and that’s it. You are just plain cheap.

  8. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: “Gotta go!” Then hang up … as Margo suggests.

    L #2: Either say nothing whatsoever, or do give “some terms.” If I were a friend of yours with such an invite, I’d certainly offer to take you out for dinner (and/or help with groceries) and gasoline expense. And I wouldn’t ask for the master bedroom. But some people think free is that…free. It’s your timeshare and you can try to set reasonable/polite terms.

  9. avatar wlaccma says:

    I own a beach house.  We love company and most of our guests are great.  However, you would not believe the clods who will stay at our house for 7 days every year and not pay for a thing.  Not pizza, not groceries, etc.  When I suggest we go out to eat they say I am the best cook in the world and no restaurant can cook as well as I can.  Then, the topper is when we do manage to  go out when the check comes, they are either in the bathroom or make no move at all to pay.  We then either pay or we split it with them.  We have tried every trick to get rid of them.  Lying about when we are there, telling them the house is full, etc. but they just show up and sleep on the sofas.   We gave them our house for five days while we were out of the country.  When we returned they were still there and told us how great it was that they had called work and extended their vacation for three more days.  They bring 1 bottle of wine and drink 10 while they are there.  They tell us when the wine rack is getting low and what kind of wine to get for them next time we go to the store.  In the evening when I am tired from cooking and cleanup  they “suggest” that they would love my chocolate cake made from scratch.  When I say I am too tired to make it, they fly out of their chairs and say they will help me.  They are in the kitchen pulling ingredients out of the cupboards before I get out of my chair.  I could write a book about them.  They give new meaning to a FREE vacation.

    • avatar Marion George says:

      Here’s a simple solution: Tell them they’re no longer welcome. Boors need not take up any more of our time than it takes to brush them off.

    • avatar Messy ONE says:

      Better yet, tell anyone who announces that they’re coming that you have a list of nice hotels for them to stay at. Even better, e-mail them the list before they come and offer to call in a reservation for them. 

      You don’t have to accommodate everyone who wants to visit the beach. I have trouble understanding why it is you let them do that to you in the first place. Re-key your locks if you’ve given out key and learn to say not. Be a grownup!

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      my relationship with my “friends” seems very different from these sort of people.
       
      for instance, in this situation, i’d have no problem saying “hey, why don’t you guys pick up dinner tonight?”  or  “i just cooked dinner… if you want cake, go ahead and make one.”
       
      because, you know… i speak to them like i actually know them.
       
      do you really feel you have to be this obtuse with FRIENDS?  jeez, i can’t imagine the passive-aggressive display you’d put on with mere acquaintances.
       
      when your whole problem is “i let people do whatever they want to me, and then quietly seethe about it in private” … well, that’s honestly not really much of a problem.
       
       

  10. avatar ann penn says:

    One way to deal with long phone conversations that do not interest you is to briefly hit the “mute” button while YOU are speaking.  To the caller, it has the same effect as a “call waiting” beep.  Then say, “Oh, I have another call coming in and I have to take it as I’m expecting an important call” or something of the sort.  You might even start the conversation with “I’m expecting a call that I’ll have to take if it comes in.”  Then simply hang up when you’ve had enough time on the phone.

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Unfortunately, far too many people are utterly clueless about “call waiting”, and when the “beep” cuts in, and you say, “Hang on, I really need to catch this”, switch lines, and then come back…they are still nattering away, oblivious to the fact that you were utterly absent from the line, and the conversation. If the connection happens to be mysteriously broken…they call back and think that there was a glitch on the line. I have tried this technique with the phone etiquette challenged…and these are the clinical results.
       
      I realize how bizarre this must sound in 2011, but it is all too true.

    • avatar Diagoras says:

      That’s not very smart. The smart thing to do is say you have to go. Don’t give a reason. Just say goodbye and hangup. That’s what grownups do.

  11. avatar Mary says:

    Oh this made me laugh and remember a solution I had about 15  years ago to a obnoxious telemarketing co. that would call me each and every day despite the fact that I would hang up on them, tell them not to call me again and I even threatened to report them to the attorney general etc.  Nothing, nothing stopped them. The worst part was that they would call me around lunch time and I only had a very short time to take care of things here and then return to work. I did not have caller id at that time but got it because of this situation.

    I lived in a small town that had a lunch whistle that was quite close to my home, so when it went off at 11:30 am, it was quite loud in my house, it would then go off again at noon .  One lunchtime the call came yet again and I had just raced in the house.  I picked up the phone and the same old thing over again, then joy of all joys the whistle went off…..Just off the top of my head I yelled,  ” Do you hear that?, it is a tornado and it is headed directly at me, I have to run and unlock the room I keep my aunt Helen in so she doesn’t burn down my house while I am away and get her to the basement”!  Never did they call again.   But, I don’t reccomend you do this because about 10 minutes later a nice policeman came to my house and told me that they got a call about a woman being locked up at my address……..  LOL, thank goodness for small towns and people that know each other.

    • avatar crazycatlady says:

      LOL – another solution is to do like Tom Mabe (check it out on YouTube – search “Greatest Prank Call Ever”)….he had a telemarketer convinced he was a homicide detective and that the telemarketer was a suspect in the investigation!!!  Better than a “Do Not Call” list :)

      For LW#1 – I can be quite a chatterbox and can be rather long-winded when in the mood, and have several friends/family who are much the same….but if someone says they have to go, I say “Okay, catch you later” and end the conversation!  All it would take is one or two hang-ups after you’ve said “Gotta go!”, and they’ll catch the hint.

      For LW#2 – You’ve invited them, so you’re offering to foot the bill (unless you’ve specified otherwise…).  If some folks don’t offer to chip in to help with groceries/a dinner out/whatever, don’t invite them back! 

  12. avatar Kathy says:

    LW2 – My in-laws bought a timeshare years ago and when they could no longer travel they “gave us” the timeshare.  How thoughtful.  Now, we’re paying “maintenance fees”, exchange fees (the timeshare location doesn’t appeal to us) and we’re stuck taking what’s available, when it’s available, or throwing money away.  I never thought of inviting someone else to use it, and then billing them for the maintenance fees. Hmmm….

  13. avatar Dani Smith says:

    Margo’s response to letter #1 is why Margo rules.  :)
     

  14. avatar Ann Hipson says:

    And that’s why I love texting.  It’s a shame that most of my like aged friends refuse to do it!  I no longer have a problem with phone calls.  I hate hate hate talking on the phone.  I hate it.  Somehow I seem to have made it clear to my family and friends that I just don’t like to chat on the phone and now no one calls me unless there is a reason.  If a new friend calls just to chat, I talk for a few minutes and then say I have to go but I give no reason.  (My mother was the same way, almost phone phobic.)  I have lots of friends and we keep in touch by email, Facebook and face to face while the phone is reserved for time sensitive topics.  I also have a history of not picking up the phone if I don’t want to talk and I did this before answering machines were ubiquitous which irritated many of my friends.
    It’s not impolite to shorten a phone conversation if you do it firmly and considerately.  “It’s been great to talk with you, but I really have to go now.”
    When friends invites me to their guest house or condo, I do not expect to pay the expenses.  I do expect to bring or purchase alcohol (more than I will drink), food (I like to come bringing goodies from ethnic bakeries and restaurants) and to take them out to a very nice dinner.  If there is sightseeing and they drive, then I’ll offer to pay for a fill up or two.  I always pay my own way when there are admission fees and often for my hosts.  Even being liberal with the “Hey, let me get that.  It’s so great to be here with you!” , it’s still a cheap vacation.
    My hosts are being generous to share their vacation house with me, I have the responsibility to be generous with them.  If I had a vacation house and my friends did not appear to respect the expense and inevitable extra work of having guests, I would tell them, regretfully, in April that I just wouldn’t be able to have them this summer.  No reasons or excuses, just a regretful tone to my voice.  If asked why, “We just aren’t able to have you this year.”
     

    • avatar Obediah Fults says:

      I can’t agree with you more! There’s nothing that makes my skin crawl like trying to converse with a disembodied voice through a contraption. I had a couple of lady-friends who developed the habit of calling me “just to chat” — and I ended up ending both of those 45+ year “friendships” over it. They seemed to think that, because I’m a gay man, I should enjoy sitting around with a receiver glued to my ear like I was one of their housebound “girlfriends” who liked to gossip for hours with curlers in my hair and a box of bon-bons on my lap.
       
      One of those women used to “vent” to me about everything that was wrong with each and every one of her siblings. This she did, knowing very well that my one and only (dearly beloved) brother had died and, indeed, I was the sole survivor of my entire family. To say she was inconsiderate of my feelings (about missing my own family) is an understatement. One day, while she was ranting about one of her sisters, I told her, “Say that to me again someday…when she’s dead! Tell me about your petty irritations then.” I finally told her that, because of my meds (I have Stage IV prostate cancer), I could no longer track her rambling ’phone calls. (It was the truth.)
       
      The other “friend” started calling to “should on me”. When I answered her calls, they would begin with, “I was thinking, you should…” or “You know what? You need to…” Well, that didn’t last long before I made it stop, permanently.

  15. avatar DonnaH says:

    My dad winters in Florida.  I call him three or four times a week, but only when I have time to listen to him babble. (He calls my brother & I so infrequently we’ve asked if he knows he can make calls as well as receive them on his cell).
    He talks about people in the mobile  home park he lives in.  I drive down with him in the fall & stay for a couple of days, so he assumes I know everyone in the park.  I have learned not to say I don’t know who he’s speaking about, because that sends him off on lengthy, detailed descriptions of the people he’s talking about.  He spends quite a bit of time talking about his meals, especially about the ones supplied by the widows & divorced women in the park.
    Because he rarely wears his hearing aids, he frequently misses what I’m saying & interrupts me.  I honestly stop listening to him closely after a few minutes, & much of our conversation is limited to me making “hmm-hmm” noises to indicate that I have not been bored to death.
    But he’s my dad; I don’t put up with non-stop babbling from anyone else.  I have a little joke gizmo that makes a variety of noises, including a phone ringing.  If need be, i can make it ring & claim to the caller that the cell (if I’m on the landline) is ringing & I have to go.

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      “If need be, i can make it ring”
       
      here, i’m not sure why you’d bring a lie into a situation where the truth is just as easy.
       
      i mean… does “i’ve got to go” really also need physical evidence of the reason in real time?
       
      you’ve got some darn strict callers, i’d say.

  16. avatar BarbaraB says:

    I’m sometimes guilty of the first faux pas (talking too long on the phone) and it’s almost always because I either really like the person or want them to like me. Silly, I know. But I’m working on it and I have (finally!) learned to pick up on hints. When I’m on the receiving end of the call and just can’t get off, I pretend I have a incoming “call waiting” … I say “hold on a sec, I have another call.” Then I put them on hold for a few seconds, come back and say “oops … kind of a crisis here. I’ll call when I can.” and hang up.  And I use my call screening a lot.
    As for the second problem, the guest will probably write in next week asking whether offering to pay her host would insult her (no one knows what to do in these situations, but heaven forbid we should actually talk frankly to each other about them!)

  17. avatar Diane Shaw says:

    Ltr. #2 – Guests by invitation are not moochers.  Unbelievable!

  18. avatar Jay Gentile says:

    Write this down and remember it: <<b>>”The telephone is an invitation, not a command.” <<b>>I pay to have that instrument in my home. I will use to make calls and receive them at my convenience. Even before caller ID (whose inventor should be sainted), I had no problem saying, “I’m sorry, you caught me at an inconvenient time. Let me call you back when I have some free time.”

    • avatar chuck alien says:

      for real.
       
      the concept of “don’t pick up the phone if you don’t want to talk” SEEMS very simple.  but apparently it is more difficult than i imagine.
       
      if it’s important, they leave a message.  if they don’t, ignore it.  how important could it have been?

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      I’ve never had a problem simply not picking up the phone…or even unplugging the damn thing. In fact, there was a period in my life when peace of mind depended on this.
       
      And, I agree, if someone can’t be bothered to leave a message, then I’m not terribly concerned about what it is they wanted. I have known some of the “I hate answering machines/services and refuse to talk to them” people, and frankly, assuming that someone must pick up the phone because you’re so incredibly important…and of course, they have nothing better to do…is somewhat arrogant. If you leave a message…and that means giving me some idea as to why you’re calling…I absolutely will call you back (unless you’re my middle sister, in which case I will email you. Trans-Atlantic calls are very expensive). If you don’t…it isn’t my problem.

  19. avatar bamabob says:

    LW2 says Because I invited them, I do not ask or expect them to pay me a fair share of the maintenance fee that has been paid for the week. It would, however, be nice if they would at least offer.  Obviously she DOES expect them to pay a fair share.  I can only imagine what kind of passive aggressive torment she puts these “guests” through during their free week.  Yes,  well mannered guests will offer to take the hostess out to dinner.  No,  well mannered guests will not expect the master bedroom.  No, any guest with a shred of dignity will not accept a second invitation from Leona Helmsley after a week of comments about maintenance fees, weekly rentals, and grocery bills.  Yeesh

  20. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Back in the pre-historic pre-DSL days I always had at least two lines and call waiting on the main line people called me on. ng cords. And so I would go to another phone and quietly click on the other line, pick up the receiver, and “call myself.” “Oh, hold on I have another call.” “Oh, I have to take this call. I’ll call you later.”  Every once in awhile when I find myself “engaged” with a “Chatty Cathy” I tell myself I will put in another line.  Never do. I find it easier to just say I really have to go. And will then say someone is at the door and I have to go and will call them later. Still, that “other call” works so much better.

  21. avatar impska says:

    LW2: We had some friends who invited us to join them at their Disney timeshare after a set of grandparents canceled out on them. They had a spare room and reservations for extra adults that couldn’t be canceled without penalty. They invited my husband and I to join them. We expected to pay for our share of the activities and dinners that we attended, but we assumed that they would be absorbing the cost of the timeshare. We were, after all, joining them on THEIR vacation that they planned with two other people in mind, and they were paying for the timeshare whether or not we went.
     
    When it was said and done, the wife delivered an itemized bill for our half of the vacation, including the rent and fees associated with our room in their timeshare. In all, the vacation turned out to be far more expensive than we were led to believe and much more expensive than what we would normally spend on our own vacation. Since “rent” hadn’t been clearly discussed, we chose to pay.
     
    Had we known how much it would cost, we would have chosen to spend that money on our own vacation to somewhere that we’d prefer to go. We would not have paid a premium to join someone on their vacation. Soon after, they invited us to join them next year and we politely declined.
     
    And there lies the problem with expecting someone to pay their “fair share” of your timeshare rental. You bought a timeshare because that’s where you enjoy going on vacation. Your guests did not buy a timeshare there – chances are, the only reason they’re going there is because they enjoy spending time with you. But they can spend time with you at home. Unless they’re getting some kind of break on going on vacation with you, they will prefer to spend their vacation budget going on a trip that they plan, to a location of their choosing.
     
    It’s not out of line to expect your guests to pay something towards meals or a rental car, but you should be explicit about your expectation and clear about how much they can expect to spend.

    • avatar Theresa Vittal says:

      What bad form, they would incur those costs anyway.  You were used and I would not have paid.

      • avatar impska says:

        We went back and forth about it, especially when every “Pretty princess” breakfast and lunch turned up on our bill. These were non-refundable reservations that they had made so the grandparents could enjoy seeing their granddaughter get excited about Snow White. Clearly, my husband and I had no interest in these events and would not have attended at all had we known we were paying for it.
         
        Still, for the sake of the friendship, we ate the cost rather than make a big deal about it. And we learned a harsh lesson about joining that set of friends on vacation.

  22. avatar Rosebluegirl says:

    Re:  LW#1:  I had the same problem with a relative.  She would call and blast me with every little detail about her day, every detail about her friends’ lives (whom I have never met), her pets and the dramas they were having, her neighbors. . . you get the idea.  I was lucky if she took the time to ask me how I was, but when I would start off with “Oh, I’m doing all right,” she would cut me off before I could add any details and go straight back to talking about herself and everyone in her world.
    She never even seemed to need any feedback from me.  She could talk non-stop.  It got to the point where I wondered if I could put the phone down, go use the restroom and maybe stop at the kitchen to fix myself a sandwich before making my way back to the bedroom where I could at least listen while resting on the bed–and it would be doubtful if she even noticed that I had been gone.  Even getting off the phone was difficult because I would say something like, “Well, it was nice talking with you, but I have to go.”  and she would KEEP TALKING!
    Finally, I had to accept that it was my own stupid fault if I was willing to listen to this crap and be treated this way.  I was taking this kind of treatment because she was family, but I honestly wondered if I couldn’t find a way to cut her out of my life–or at least minimize her.  If I mattered that little to her, then why did I keep up the relationship?  I was really little more than a sounding board for her.
    I came to the conclusion that I cared enough for her to keep her in my life–but with boundaries.  I decided to set boundaries on myself and deliberately set a timer for 10 minutes whenever she would call–I decided she mattered enough to me to be worth 10 minutes of my time occasionally.  Whenever she calls, I check my watch and when 10 minutes are up, I say something like, “Oh!  I have to go.”  I don’t wait for a break in her speech (because there usually isn’t any) and I hang up after a quick, “Bye!  Talk with you later!”  Maybe its rude, but so is she.  She actually caught the clue and the phone calls have pretty much ceased.  We keep in touch, but sporadically–and never for more than 10 minutes at a time.

  23. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Re L#1: I despise talking on the phone. I will only have lengthy conversations with two people…my youngest sister (and these are very rare, as we usually communicate via email…and always interesting) and my mother, who has no computer, lives 1300 miles away, and with whom I feel free to end the conversation if she insists on being unpleasant or disrespectful of the boundaries I’ve set with regard to subject matter.
     
    I have known a few phone boors, the worst being my middle sister, who would call, or who I would call (an international call to London, no less), and the entire time would be spent listening to her wallowing in drama, angst and her latest physical misery, romantic agonies, mental anguish and accusations that no one could understand, or suffer as much as she did. The last time we spoke I lost all patience and told her that we weren’t having a dialogue…it was a monologue and a litany of the reasons as to why she had it worse than anyone else in the world, and since she was now relating her list of grievances to my 11 year old son, I wouldn’t be doing the phone thing with her anymore. Such a freeing feeling.
     
    We freely screen calls, don’t answer the phone during dinner (we actually sit down and eat and converse), and my friends fully understand that I’d much rather touch base, set up a time and place to meet, and talk face to face. I have a cell phone…and in the two years I’ve owned it have made perhaps 15 calls. I communicate via email, and even by written letter.
     
    If someone is blathering endlessly on the phone, and saying, “I have to go now” isn’t enough, then I think repeating it with a firm, “…and I’m hanging up now, catch you later”, and then doing so might get the message across. If not, caller I.D. is your friend, as is an answering machine.

  24. avatar flyonthewall says:

    LW#1 I too am one who despises talking on the phone.  If anyone tries to keep me on the phone for long periods on end, I don’t lie but I truthfully say to them I really have to go.  Long phone conversations are not built into my schedule and I have things to do, places to be and it really isn’t a lie when I tell people this.  I do let the caller know that contacting me via email is much easier and my preferred method of conversing and that he or she can shoot me an email with whatever is left on their mind.  Needless to say, I don’t have a problem being kept on the phone.
    LW#2 Have guests share the cost of the condo maintenance fee?  Don’t know of anyone who would want to be a paying guest.  I wouldn’t mind supplying food and the tab on some meals out and costs of entertainment, but really.  You sound like a skit off of The Jack Benny Show.

  25. avatar crystalclear says:

    Letter 1:   I do not and will not spend long periods of time on the phone.  My friends understand that about me as well as my family.     I love email!

    Letter 2:   I would never suggest to a guest that they should help with the expenses.   When I invite someone to spend time with me at a timeshare/summer home or wherever it is I’ll be at the time, I don’t want them to pay.   On the other hand, if I am invited somewhere I want to do my share of providing food, buying gasoline for the boat, etc.  

     

  26. avatar Diagoras says:

    Wow. I don’t know anyone with timeshares, but I’m thinking if I had a friend who invited me to their timeshare, I would just say no and avoid these hassles! Why would anyone buy a timeshare anyway? It’s just a waste of money.

  27. avatar darlean washington says:

    I have a friend who is extremely (and I mean extremely) long-winded.  She will go on for hours if I let her.  If she runs out of things to say, which is rarely, then she will bring up questions to ask me that I’ve either answered or are a sensitive nature that I might not want to discuss.  I guess she figures that since she’s gone on that I should go on.
    I don’t think that it’s so easy to just say “Gotta go!” and then hang up because most of these people don’ let you get a word in edgewise.  Because I feel this way, I use a little proactive preventative technique:  When I see who’s on the phone, I pick up, say hello, and then announce that I have however long as I will be willing to spare on the phone.  For instance, if I feel like listening for half an hour, I say, “Hey, before you start, don’t forget to remind me that I have to go half an hour.”  If she asks why, then I say I have house work to do or something else.
    Or, I just say that I have an hour to spare, and I ask what’s up.  When the half hour is up, I say goodbye, even if she says something like “Just one more minute.”
    The odd thing is that if I say I have forty-five minutes or so then she will often say something like “Oh, well then I won’t bother you.”  It’s almost as if she can’t get enough of her fix in forty-five minutes.  This technique has yet to fail.

  28. avatar Karleen S says:

    I don’t understand where people ever got the idea that “politesse,” as Margo puts it, means to rollover and acquiesce to everyone else’s whims.  Being courteous and polite allows you to say no.  It’s all about the way you say it.  Not only that, the phone is their for your convenience, not everyone else’s.  There is no rule that requires you to answer it or remain on it longer than you care to.  I do it with my uncle because he truly is bored and can’t do anything since kidney failure landed him in a rehab facility.  But that’s only when I get on the phone.  He tends to call when he wants to chat, but I let it go to voicemail keeping in mind I should finish whatever I’m doing and ring him back.  I’m not required to drop everything in any etiquette book that I’m aware of.

  29. avatar Paula says:

    Got a friend like that myself and I’ve had to develop some strategy methods of dealing with her.  First of all, she is one of my closest local friends (note I said “local” – she lives a very few miles away from me and we see each other in person often, so to me there is no reason to spend ages on the phone!), and we’ve had some issues in the past, which we’ve been able to resolve, and to me, too-long phone conversations are not valid reasons to end friendships.  Some of our past issues came from a lack of maturity on both parts, her unusual background and not knowing how to deal with issues as an adult, and my not knowing how to be honest with her.  In the early years of our friendship 20+ years ago, I got pressed into service more as a counselor (I am two years and a few months older than she is – nowhere near equipped to do that, especially not in my 20’s!) to her than simply as a friend, and it drained me completely within a very short time.  

    When my own mild case of depression began sneaking in (took me a few years to realize what was happening), I eventually put the friendship on hold, too drained to handle her problems and her automatic phone calls to me whenever something in her life went the least bit wrong.  We had very little contact (a couple of cards exchanged, ran into each other at certain events, etc.) for six years, during which we both did some badly needed growing up.  Now we are both in our mid 40’s, and though I still see things from the past sneak through in her behavior now and then, and I probably still react as I would have 20+ years ago in wanting to try to “fix” things for her, that kind of behavior no longer dominates our friendship.  I genuinely enjoy doing things with her and am glad to have her as a friend.

    The extremely lengthy phone conversations still go on, though!  A simple “hey, how are you?” phone call can turn into an endless recitation of things that happened to her decades ago, things nobody can change now, or her just “venting” about whatever her current worry is.  She’s learned how to control those tendencies to a large degree, but there are times when she has a captive audience in me on the phone that it tends to come out.  I will usually, when that starts, find a way (tell her I need to go do something – she can talk on the phone and do EVERYTHING; I don’t “multi task” well and she knows it) to get off the phone as soon as possible.  After such an incident, she will often realize she’s crossed a line and will then call back (not that I need or want another phone call!) to apologize.

    One strategy I’ve developed with her is to, in my own mind, allow her 30 minutes of phone time with me per day.  I’ve never said any such thing to her, of course, but whenever she calls (thank goodness for Caller ID!), I first of all make sure I can give her my undivided attention for at least 30 minutes, and I note what time it is when I answer.  Once the 30 minute mark is approaching, I start making noises about needing to get off, things to do, etc.  Usually I can hold it down to around 30 minutes with that strategy.  And if she calls me again in the same day and there’s nothing important coming up (meeting her somewhere, for example, and there might be a change in plans), I just let the machine (at home) or the voice mail (cell phone) get it.  I will usually listen to the message fairly soon afterward just to make sure there’s no emergency.  There have been times during a conversation with her that I’ve outright said how long we’ve been talking, and sometimes she gets the message.  Not always, though.

    I fully understand that my friend is lonely and she’s said as much, but IT IS NOT MY RESPONSIBILITY TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!!!  I keep telling myself this periodically as I need to, so I don’t fall into the trap of feeling sorry for her and/or feeling obligated to help her.

    I’d say try a similar strategy with the people who don’t think twice about demanding hours of your time on the phone.  In your own mind, set a time limit, and once the mark approaches, start telling them you have to go.  Even say, if you have to, “We’ve been talking 30 minutes already, and I need to get off the phone so I can get some things done.”  If they ask what things, it’s none of their business!!!  Regardless of what you “have” to do, it’s not up to THEM to decide how you spend your time!

    If you truly care about these people, I think you can find a way to control the phone time with them.  But if they’re people you’d just as soon do without, then I think scaling back your contact with them drastically is a good idea.  You are not obligated to “entertain” them for hours on the phone!

  30. avatar kgram says:

    I have several friends and relatives who fall into the LW#1 category. They aren’t on my A list of friends because that’s reserved for people who are capable of give and take. Still, there they are on my B list (or is it my C list?).

    I agree with much of what has been said, here, but have a few things to add. Perhaps I’ll introduce my problem callers (in descending order of acceptability) and tell you how I deal with them:

    Person One is both intelligent and from a very different culture than my own, one that I am interested in studying (I should have been an anthropologist). She only calls me when she is in some sort of trouble (maybe once every two weeks, on average) and her problems are quite challenging; in fact, it’s fun to help her sort out her life (I should have been a lawyer/ marriage counsellor/ philosopher). Besides, she says all the right things to feed my ego: “Ooooh, you are so smart; I don’t know how I’d get by without you”.

    Also, I have trained her to feel insecure about the fact that she talks about absolutely nothing but herself. This means when I get bored and announce I’m going to hang up, she’s the one who feels guilty. All in all, this lady would be on my A list if (instead of pretending for no more than 30 seconds at a time) she would actually listen, occasionally.

    2. Person Two has been a trial for many years. He is married to a good friend who, for some unfathomable reason, won’t divorce him. He can’t help being who he is. I suspect he is somewhere on the autism spectrum (I should have been a psychiatrist) and he just doesn’t get other people. He also talks about nothing except machinery.

    Just saying “Sorry, got to go” doesn’t work. Hanging up on him, after saying “Sorry, got to go” several times, enrages him. Many years ago (before caller id), I attached the phone to a long line and trotted over to ring the door bell. “Oops, there’s the doorbell; gotta go” worked nicely. I also tried to introduce him to Person Three (below) but they couldn’t stand each other, naturally, since neither will give an inch in the “let’s talk about me” universe they inhabit.

    These days, I only answer his calls when I truly feel like it. We have a lengthy conversation (30 minutes) about four times a year, on average, although he calls several times a week. I put him on speaker, make myself a cup of coffee, turn on my laptop and start surfing. I respond whenever I can, but mostly say “hmm, uh-huh, wow, ain’t it awful?” which seems to satisfy him. This is totally successful, so far, and we both seem to have a good time.

    Person Three is a close relative who has several mental disorders and is not only entirely obsessed with her own interests but also mad as hatter. I finally had to give up trying to help with her problems (I should have been a psychologist) and now just listen patiently (once a week), agreeing as much as possible and shutting up the rest of the time. Then I explain that I am exhausted and she lets me go. No idea why “I’m exhausted” works, when “I’m on fire” wouldn’t. Since she used to try to reach me several times a day, now down to several times a week, this is a big improvement.

    Person Four is an even closer relative who is a (prescription) drug addict. Her p.o.v. is that life sucks, everyone she knows sucks (including me) and she is not a drug addict but needs money. Since I am not going to give her money there is no point in listening to the rest of it and I don’t. Maybe twice a year, some situation arises and I have to call her. It is always a mistake.

    Person Five is my husband who is definitely an A list guy except he cares who won the ball game and not only watches Turner Classic Movies but wants to tell me the plot. Other than that, we have a lot in common. He doesn’t phone me, of course, unless I’m out (we are retired). It’s just part of my ditzy personality that I can’t remember to turn on my cell unless I actually want to use it to call someone.

    I can appreciate that some people would say I am being dishonest with these folks but the alternative is no relationship at all. Almost all of us need relationships but some are uniquely incapable of sustaining them. In this case, I think a creative approach is not only acceptable but kind.

    • avatar Karleen S says:

      And the length of your comment means… Are you sure you’re talking about other people? 😉