All Posts, Reflections, Self-Care

You’re Not Being Nice, You’re Tolerating (Part 1)

Sometimes, as soft-hearted people, we’re caught up in conversations that we’re not really invested in. Usually, these are at some kind of function, where we’re meeting people for the first time, or catching up with extra-nosy acquaintances. Maybe you’re secretly glad to not have to socialize right now.

Most people find conversation to be a two-sided phenomenon, or at least that’s how it should be. A dialogue. But sometimes, it becomes a monologue. I find that some of you may listen, listen more, and soon enough you’re stuck in a one-sided conversation. “Mhm,” “yeah,” and “oh, I didn’t know that” is the chorus of your anthem.

And normally, this wouldn’t be a problem. But there’s another person in the room you want to talk to, or there’s a bathroom you want to visit, or there’s food you haven’t eaten and you’re hungry.

You may have even asked for advice on this before. When you did, you were told by your friends to speak up for yourself, or stop the flow of conversation. But you’re a “nice” person. That’s why these people are talking to you, right? You know that cutting a conversation short is rude, and you don’t want to be rude. You want to be nice.

Merriam Webster defines “nice” as “polite, kind”. I feel like these are two very different things. Kind is warm-hearted; polite is civil. You do not have to be warm-hearted to be civil. You do, however, need to be both polite and kind to be nice.

When you’re looking for an escape and giving fluff feedback, you’re not being kind. You’re being polite. You’re merely tolerating the conversation. And eventually, this will wear on you, and will cause undue stress and resentment, taking away precious energy.

So keep these things in mind next time you’re caught in a one-sided conversation

1. Realize that saying “mhm,” “yeah,” and “oh, I didn’t know that” isn’t helping.

It’s really not.

Before you get defensive, telling me you don’t get an inch to say otherwise, take a pause. When you’re in this kind of conversation, your monologuian doesn’t need much feedback to keep going. They’re likely used to pushing through even when they get negative feedback. This is their norm.

Conversely, if someone uses those short responses with me, I tend to talk less. Not so with these people. Your passive way of being disengaged when your buddy is talking about the fascinating world of toast crust isn’t going to register with them.

2. This person you’re talking to is trying to connect with you in their own way.

They likely don’t realize that they’re being a steamroller. Really.

What makes a steamroller a steamroller? When they don’t need your feedback to change a topic or share their views. If you’re talking to someone who you haven’t talked to in months and they haven’t found out your dog died last week because they didn’t ask how you were, you’re likely talking to a steamroller. Maybe you’re realizing that you’re the one like this.

But this post isn’t to shame steamrollers. It’s to talk to you, person-who-feels-trapped-in-conversation. They’re talking to you because they find a kindred spirit and sweet person who will listen. Take that in stride. But don’t let it make you a pushover. Just appreciate their willingness to share and be comfortable with you.

3. Realize that these people expect you to freely share too.

Person A: “Why didn’t you say anything?”
Person B: “Well, you didn’t ask!”

Does this sound familiar?

Similar to point 2, though, remember that they’re talking to you because they like you. Whether they’ll show that by being empathetic is an entirely other question. Take your time and decide whether you want to share. Be clear, be upfront, and don’t downplay your achievements.

4. They also expect you to say what you need.

Just because you both speak English doesn’t mean that you communicate the same way. Remember, these types of people are used to saying what they need, likely because they know if they voice it, a solution will come.

They expect that you communicate the same way. Instead, you don’t always voice them because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. You hold your bladder, skip your meal, and are much less productive (sometimes daily) because you think that voicing that you need to go to the bathroom, grab some food, or get work done, will make your friend feel not listened to.

But are you really listening? Or are you still thinking about other things while in the proximity of this person? My previous post addresses whether we’re really listening, or just giving lip service. And if they’re really your friend, they will understand that you have needs, too.

5. Remember that Jesus wants you to listen. But really listen.

Jesus died for you and saved you so that you can lean into his goodness. He’s your eternal listener and counsellor. Sometimes people need that same Jesus-goodness, and you’re the one to give it.

You may be the only bit of Jesus this person sees for a while. Show them real love, and really want to listen. Ask them questions. Probe. They are seeking your attention, so give it while you can, while also respecting your own needs.

6. Listen to your gut.

That being said, you need to listen to discernment. If you’re listening to them and understanding where they’re coming from, and still want to escape, then escape. Kindly. With grace.

What makes people the kind kind of nice vs. the polite kind of nice is that when they realize they’re not enjoying the company they’re with, they bow out to give room for someone else to step in. And they use that time to pray for that sacrificial heart that Jesus wants. They know every person deserves to be loved and shown they’re loved.


Next time someone talks your ear off without listening to you, remember these 6 things. I’m still working on that myself.

Have some more tips to share? Share them below in the comments!

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