Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

People Who Explain Too Much


In my blog bio, I say that one of the things I dislike is people who lack the ability to edit. An anecdote doesn’t have to be perfectly crafted, and it doesn’t even have to have a great punchline, but it really shouldn’t bore me. When you’re telling me about the fabulous new restaurant you went to, please leave out of your story what time you left home, how long it took to find a taxi, and how long you had to queue outside the restaurant. In the tale of your mind-blowing seven-course tasting menu, these details are irrelevant. And, if you insist on telling me all, please note my body language: not looking you in the eye, twiddling my thumbs, whistling, getting up to go to the toilet. If we are on the phone, the verbal tics indicating that I am fondly remembering the scones I once had in Upper Whallop in 1972 – and not listening to you – would be: sighing, long silences, no warm “ahas” and the sound of the TV remote control at work. Clues, people, clues. Receive them, and act accordingly.

I have had many bruising sessions of Too Much Information. However, during these long years of having my body language ignored by people who love the sound of their own voices, I have had the time to devise My Guide to Bores.

The first is The Pedagogue. The Pedagogue loves to teach and uses every social situation to fill other people up with his or her learning. So accustomed to hearing his or her voice in the classroom, or training-room, or university tutorial, The Pedagogue believes every occasion is a chance to share knowledge. And, accustomed to pupils shuffling papers and picking their teeth with staples, The Pedagogue will ignore all signals that his or her audience (of one, two or twenty) is bored rigid.

The second is Details. Details believes that no story is complete without times, dates and verbatim reports of what people said. A report from – I hesitate to call it a conversation – Details will go something like this: “And so she said she would pick me up at nine on Tuesday, but I had to go to the supermarket first, so by the time I got home it was nine-fifteen, and she was waiting in her car outside my house and she said, ‘Hurry up, we’re going to be late’ and I said, ‘Just let me throw some make-up on’ and she said, ‘OK but make it snappy.’ So I went upstairs and I thought I would change, but I couldn’t find my new jeans anywhere. I turned the washbasket upside-down and found them at the bottom, but they were smelly, and by then it was already nine-thirty, and then she called from the car to say where the hell are you, and I said I was just changing. She said hurry up, so I put on my old jeans and threw on some lipstick and just brushed my hair really fast, but by the time I got the car it was nine-thirty five and so we were late for the movie.”

In the pantheon of bores, there lurks The Enthusiast. The Enthusiast has a single hobby or interest, which is arcane to the rest of the world, but infinitely fascinating to him or her. No matter how hard you try to lead the conversation to new and uncharted waters, The Enthusiast will try just as hard to return it back to his or her safe haven. Whether it is clay-pigeon shooting, advances in prosthetic limb technology or the invention of the Kreepy-Krawly, the Enthusiast will direct your comment that you still haven’t decide whether you would support Obama or Hillary if you lived in the US straight back to birds, limbs or pools. No straying is tolerated with the Enthusiast.

Another type is The Entertainer. This is the person who the first time you meet him or her, you think, “Hilarious! What funny stories! I’ve never laughed so much!” The next time you encounter the Entertainer, you hear the stories again. You come away thinking, “Whoops, she must have forgotten that she’s told me those already. But what a hoot!” The third time you meet this person, you realise Those Are Her Stories.

A fifth is The Narcissist. Much like the Enthusiast, the Narcissist likes to grab a theme by the coat-tails and milk it for all it is worth. However, unlike the Enthusiast, the Narcissist’s favourite topic is wide-ranging, engrossing and infinitely fascinating in all its aspects, for of course the Narcissist is in love with him or herself. Any conversational gambit of yours will be met with “When I …”, “Of course, my feeling is …” or “I always say …”

To the bores, I say this:

  • Read your audience. If they are yawning broadly, have a desperate look in their eyes or have slumped over in their chairs, chances are you are boring them.
  • Ask questions. When the person responds, try asking them another question and even a third. You’ll be surprised by how refreshing it is. (For the Pedagogues out there, don’t for God’s sake, ask, “Do you understand me?”. You will be whipped upside the head.)
  • Employ your edit facility. You may have lost it, but for the sake of the rest of us, seek it out, dust it off and put it to good use.
  • Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When someone makes a comment, instead of relating it back to yourself, try saying, “That must have been wonderful/hard/challenging/hilarious for you.” You might even make a friend.

That would be my rant over. However, if you want to read more on sexist bores, then Rebecca Solnit’s article Men Explain Things to Me: Facts Didn’t Get in Their Way (which I found via the F-Word Blog) is superb.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

23 thoughts on “People Who Explain Too Much

  1. Succinct and insightful synopsis Charlotte. I like the way your mind works.

    ps. I am married to a Details person. Beam me up Scotty!

  2. My mom is a Details person. Yawn!!

    p.s. tagged you on something on my blog!

  3. YIKES! I think I’m a narcissist. Darn, did I just relate this back to me?

  4. Oh, haven’t we all met each and every one of your bores in our lives? I think you have left one out and that is the person who has no inhibitions to talk forever about failing/failed relationship or chronic illnesses. Beyond boring you to tears, they leech out all of your energy.

  5. Hilarious, Charlotte! And all too familiar. I want to add one: the Confused Narrator. I know all about this because on a bad day my husband does it. He starts right smack in the middle of a story, then realises he needs to explain something so goes backwards, and then goes backwards again, and then has a digression and then can’t remember where he was and…. well you get the picture. I’m ready to tear my hair out by now, snapping ‘get some narrative order in there! This isn’t meant to be a dream sequence!’

  6. My father in law was a Pedagogue. He once told me how to change a tyre: (“Do the first nut up half way. Do the opposite nut up half way. Do a third nut up half way…..” I zoned out and zoned back to hear “Do the fifth nut up completely. Do the last nut up completely”.) Mind you, I do at least know how to safely change a tyre. Bless.

    Litlove, I am beset by confused narrators.

    Thanks for these.


  7. I like bores. I like listening to them because sometimes they’ll come up with interesting stuff that I can put in my stories, like some fact or a turn of phrase. Also, someone boring on means I don’t have to talk! I am also both a Details and a Confused Narrator at times, although really, I’d prefer not to say anything!

  8. I love religious maniacs too.

  9. Running through nearly every one of your examples is the same quality these people have: insecurity. They feel they won’t be interesting to you if they leave something out.

  10. Aren’t all blog commenters really Narcissists at heart? Sometimes I feel that way about my own comments. Oops.

  11. Many years ago I read an article about “psycho-vampires.” They are closely related to the Narcissist because they go on ad nauseum about their personal problems — then dump those problems on YOU. They drain the psychological lifeblood from you. When dealing with psycho-vampires, it is best to have a crucifix handy.

  12. Now of course if we meet you in real life we’ll be too scared to open our mouths and you’ll obliged to make all the conversation yourself!!

  13. I enjoyed this immensely and found myself wondering what I might be…I think probably a combination of entertainer/narcissist. As noted by another above, my mom is DETAILS and it is the WORST!

  14. Oh dear… self editing on the printed page is one of the most painful things for me… but I am getting better. And I hope I’ve never been as verbose in person as I can be in print!! I’ve met a couple of Entertainers in my time and they mostly make me want to chew off my own arm and club them with it.

  15. Alas! I am afraid I am a mix of all those bores (maybe without the details). I once met a girl who irritated me beyond measure. And then I found out what was the problem with her: she was like me. I am sure I’d hate a recording of myself in a conversation.

  16. arrrgh. i think i know a few specimens of every kind. most of the times i just yawn through it. and i may have a tiny tendency to get carried away by detail … not quite as drastic as you write it, but sometimes i have to remind myself that people do not need to know my whole train of thought to get what i want to say.

  17. Gosh I hope I am not one of those types!

  18. There was this time when I was playing Risk..I was in Kamchatka. As you know Kamchatka is a 1250-kilometer long peninsula in the Russian Far East. Anyway I decided that I wanted to attack Alaska. I rolled a 6, 4 and a 3 and the other player rolled a 5 and a 3, then I rolled a 4, 4, and 3 and he rolled a 4 and 4 a 4. I was really annoyed at that….. I always tell this story, stop me if you’ve heard it before.

    I don’t know what you mean.

  19. Pingback: The State of the Blog « Charlotte's Web

  20. Charlotte, this is too, too funny! I fear I have a little of all of those characters – but will watch out for the yawning and slumping audience.

  21. Your “enthusiast” could be suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.

  22. Great text, thank you for that! No longer feeling alone in these observations. 🙂

  23. So, how do I get my sister to stop giving the agonizing/boring/mundane details about EVERYTHING she talks about? Thank-you for any help you may be able to offer

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