Life Advice



Ask Amy: Uninterrupted conversations lead to monologues

Amy Dickinson, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Amy: My husband maintains that when a person is speaking, we should remain completely silent until the speaker stops, and then wait two extra beats, to make sure the person who is speaking is not just taking a breath.

The trouble is that when we do this, his friends hold forth for 20 to 50 minutes.

I maintain that 20- to 50-minute monologues are fine for a classroom or TED talk, but are inconsiderate for casual conversation in a bar, restaurant, living room, or via Zoom.

I say it's fine to insert an enthusiastic, "That's right!" or interject a brief and relevant personal anecdote or pertinent news item.

I do agree that interrupting to change the subject is rude (unless the speaker has already held forth for 50 minutes).

He insists that all interruptions are equally disrespectful.


What say you, Amy?

– Bored by Monologues

Dear Bored: TED talks ( are capped at 18 minutes – and many are shorter – because the founder of the famous speaker series knows that both speakers and listeners tend to wander if a monologue goes on too long.

What your husband doesn’t seem to realize is that for many people, even two beats of silence creates a chasm which must be filled!


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