Dear Annie: I recently went to see my doctor about some troublesome symptoms I had been experiencing, and the entire time he was examining me, he kept up a running monologue about the holidays and politics and other assorted topics.
I responded as necessary, but mostly I found myself wondering how he could be doing a good job of listening to my heart and lungs over the sound of his own voice. He did not spend nearly as much time discussing my treatment as he did chatting about unrelated subjects.
I realize that a certain amount of casual conversation helps to put the patient at ease and to convey understanding and empathy, but enough is enough. And seeing as he came in to see me nearly two hours past my appointment time, I’m guessing his tendency to make excessive conversation is what makes him run late.
Although I am always friendly and appropriately responsive, I also have issues with my hairstylist and manicurist and other service professionals who talk nonstop while delivering their services. I don’t see the need for all the chitchat beyond what is called for in terms of common courtesy and professionalism.
I am not a crabby old lady who always finds fault. I just want people to focus on the task at hand. Multitasking has been proved to negatively affect performance, so why don’t people just be quiet and do their jobs? Is it just me, or is there an epidemic of too much chattiness going on?
— Enough Chatter
Dear Enough Chatter: Small talk isn’t for everyone. But it’s less and less common these days, when so many people prefer texting faraway friends to talking with people who are in the same room. So try to appreciate this chitchat for the attempt at human connection it is.
That said, your doctor, of all people, should recognize and respect your boundaries as a patient. So don’t be afraid to express how you feel with a simple statement (and a smile, if you’d like to soften the edge): “Really, I am much more interested in your observations about my health than in talking about politics.” Saying this with a warm smile will help.
Dear Annie: I can respect your answer to “New Grandma,” who felt shut out of her grandchild’s life, but I thought a little more was needed — namely, a word to parents on how important it is for grandparents to be allowed to see their grandchildren at least occasionally.
I can feel “New Grandma’s” pain, because I haven’t seen my grandson in over a year and get to FaceTime him only four times a year. We beg my son and daughter-in-law to come visit or to allow us to visit. We offer to cover any flights, hotels and rental cars, as well as lunches and dinners for us all. We, too, have many friends who invite us out, but it’s not the same as seeing our only grandson. He’s 7 now! I even started volunteering to read to schoolchildren so I can feel a little like a grandma. But the hurt and heartache are still there.
Dear Heartbroken: I’m so sorry you’ve not been able to spend more time with your grandson. I commend you for signing up for the reading program. You could have easily just wallowed in your heartache, as so many of us do when we’re feeling down. Instead, you took steps to feel better — and to better your community in the process. How constructive and positive.
Your son is missing out by not involving you more in his grandson’s life, because it sounds as though you’d be a wonderful example for the boy. I hope things change for you soon.
Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.