Whether it’s a friend who takes up all the room in a conversation, or a co-worker who keeps you late with their monologues, we explore how to kindly deal with an over-talker
Usually, there is a predictable rhythm to the flow of conversation. One person talks, and then pauses to let someone else speak for a while, often taking turns like players in a game – but if someone doesn’t give you an opportunity to have your turn without being interrupted, it can take up a lot of emotional energy and leave you feeling drained. Someone’s excessive talking might make it impossible to get any work done, or take away the quiet moments in your day where you finally get the personal space you’ve been craving.
If someone’s nattering reaches a point where it’s regularly wasting your time and hurting your emotional wellbeing, it could be the moment to do something about it. Here are five tips...
1. Set a time limit to the conversation
Most people who like to talk a lot will respect your limits if you set a clear expectation with them. You can give yourself more control over your conversations by being upfront about how much time you have from the start, for example by saying: “I have five minutes before my meeting.” If a talker catches you off guard before you’ve set this expectation, or you find yourself being spoken over at inconvenient moments, it’s OK to interrupt and propose another time to talk instead. This way, you’ll be able to resume the conversation on your own terms.
2. Make your talker feel heard
As chronic talkers usually carry their chatterbox reputation around with them, you might try to shut down the dialogue quickly, or even avoid them altogether out of fear that the conversation will never end. However, if someone’s excessive talking is coming from a place of natural extroversion, this may have the opposite effect of them talking even more, because they’re not getting a genuine conversation.
So, if you know someone is chatty, once you’ve set a timeframe for your conversation, you should do what you can to make them feel heard – this means really listening to what they have to say. Ask questions, smile, share your ideas and opinions. By being a good listener and genuinely engaging within the scope of your timeline, you’ll show that you actually value them, rather than trying to cut them short. Plus, you’ll feel better about the interaction afterwards.
3. Don’t be afraid to be assertive and enforce boundaries
Sometimes, people just can’t take a hint. It can be difficult to let someone know that they’ve overstepped, but if your time is not being respected, you have a right to protect your boundaries, and it’s time to be more assertive. It doesn’t need to be rude or confrontational if you don’t want it to be.
Next time you find someone talking too much, or you feel uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to redirect the conversation back to the original point, interrupt them, or firmly end the conversation at the next pause. You can simply say: “I’ve enjoyed talking to you, but I need to go now.” Or: “Sorry, but I don’t have time to talk anymore.” If you’re engaging with someone who is overly talkative, it’s likely they know this, but just struggle to recognise when they’re taking up more time than the other person wants to give. They may appreciate your frankness.
4. Take time away for yourself
It might be that you have to interact with excessive talkers on a regular basis, for example, if they’re a housemate, friend, or co-worker. In this case, it’s really important that you take some personal space from them if you need to. This could be by doing something relaxing, like meditation or a walk, making time for a hobby or interest that brings you happiness, or spending time with other friends and family.
5. Treat people with kindness
It’s important to remember that chronic talkers don’t go into conversations with the intent of being annoying, they just love to interact with others and enjoy sharing their experiences. They could be lonely, or have a lack of social awareness. Whatever the reason may be, treat others with kindness. Be patient, but firm with your boundaries, and you’ll be well on your way to more satisfying conversations.
To connect with a counsellor, or to discuss ways to create boundaries with others in a polite way, visit counselling-directory.org.uk