SOME PEOPLE ARE TALKERS; they just love to talk and keep on talking. They are able to change subjects at a moment’s notice, rarely completing one thought before starting another. Blah, Blah, Blah. You have probably known people like this.
WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
How do you deal with these professional talkers? Most of the time, you probably wait for them to STOP TALKING. You may be concerned that you will be RUDE if you interrupt them, so you simply wait and hope they will stop… AND THEY KEEP TALKING!
You feel hostage to them. You start looking at your watch, nodding your head, and looking for an exit. You wonder, “How can this talker be unaware that I am DONE?”
Consider the following:
- If you rounded up 100 people who clearly talk too much and, one at a time, you ask each talker, “Do you know that you talk too much?” What do you suppose the vast majority of them will say? About 95 out of 100 will say a resounding, “Yes, I know I talk too much.”
- You then ask those same group of 100 talkers, one at a time, “When you are talking too much, do you think that you can stop yourself?” Again, what will the majority of those talkers say in response to your question? About 90 out of 100 will say, “No!”
- The final question to ask this group of 100 chronic talkers is, “When you are talking too much, and I am around, what do you want me to do?” The majority of the talkers will answer, “Stop me!”
Over the years, I have asked these questions of many groups with whom I have worked. The majority of those people are surprised at the answers provided above.
Most of you reading this may assume:
- People who talk too much are unaware they do.
- People who talk too much are able to stop themselves from talking.
- People who talk too much generally want you to be patient as you wait for them to finish talking.
Before we start thinking about how to effectively deal with chronic talkers, let’s take a look at what is going on. Why do they continue to keep talking? Here are some reasons that might interest you:
- THEY ARE MANAGING THEIR ANXIETY.
What might surprise you to know is that most people who talk too much are really dealing with ongoing anxiety. The anxiousness may stem from many origins and yet these people generally think that continuing to talk makes their anxiety somehow manageable. So, rather than thinking that the person talking is narcissistic, self-involved, and wrapped up in themselves, instead you might reconsider their motives by concluding that their chronic talking is somehow an anxiety reducer in their minds.
- THEY ARE LOOKING FOR ANYTHING THAT LOOKS LIKE ONGOING APPROVAL AND WANT TO AVOID ANYTHING THAT SMELLS LIKE DISAPPROVAL.
Most people who talk too much are very concerned about getting continual approval from others, including you. If they get approval, they generally feel better for a short time and then want more approval. They tend to be perpetually worried if you like them, or if you think they are good, nice, attractive, charming, helpful, kind, etc.
However, they are often MORE concerned if you are disapproving of them. They want to please, and they feel awful if it appears that you are displeased. Therefore, they will keep talking with an ongoing radar, checking to see if you are pleased or displeased with what they are saying at the time. If it appears that you are pleased, they will keep talking to keep you that way. On the other hand, if it appears you are displeased, they will change the subject in hope that you will become pleased with the new material.
- THEY THINK THAT THE WORST THING TO EXPERIENCE IS SILENCE. THEY FEEL HOSTAGE TO YOU AND YOUR REACTIONS.
Because they are managing their anxiety and feel hostage to your approval or disapproval, they have to keep talking because the worst of all situations, in their minds, is silence. Most people who talk too much associate something really bad with silence, and this triggers their fear that they will be receiving disapproval.
In reality, silence and pausing in a conversation is a good thing. When you pause between thoughts, the pause gets the listener’s attention that a good thought is coming. Therefore, silence is often a powerful way to communicate.
WHAT DO YOU DO? HOW DO YOU HANDLE A CHRONIC TALKER?
What is a more effective way to get the talker to quit talking and to steer the conversation in the direction you want?
Remember That the Talker Wants to be Stopped.
It is out of order to presume you are rude if you stop the talker. Actually, the talker is likely to be relieved when you stop them. Yet how do you stop them? What do you say?
Interrupt With Some Specific Wording.
Do you say, “Hey, you are talking too much and it’s driving me crazy!” Or do you say, “Despite the look on my face, you are still talking!” How about, “Are you under the mistaken illusion that I am actually interested in what you are talking about?” Hardly! This is clearly rude, disrespectful, and likely to build up relationship scar tissue.
Consider these methods, and pay attention to the precise wording. The person is talking and going on and on. You then say, “Let me interrupt you for a moment to make sure I have understood what you have said so far,” and you then summarize their remarks. Or you say, “If I understand you correctly, you have said/indicated/described/showed/illuminated/clarified/etc.” and you then summarize their remarks. Another option is, “If I may interrupt for a moment, it sounds like…” and you then summarize their remarks.
The talker will be relieved you stopped them. Further, they will likely be pleased with your summary of their remarks, because you have just:
- clarified what they said
- organized the subject matter
- empathized with them
- reinforced them
- made it about them so they feel important and understood
Often, they will be so relieved that when you summarize their remarks, they will say something like, “You clearly said it better than I could!”
At this point in the conversation you will have regained control, and you now have many options on how to proceed:
- You can simply say that what you need to do now is perhaps meet another time to discuss it more.
- You can make a suggestion on how they could move the conversation to the next step. Be sure to use a PULL© question, something like, “Given my understanding of what you said, what are your thoughts about…?” and you fill in the suggestion.
- You simply thank them for their thoughts/remarks/stories and tell them you have to go on to your next thing.
There are many other variations on your approach here. Think of similar wording that might work for you.
THE KEYS TO REMEMBER:
- You must stop them from talking. So, be sure to interrupt using the wording above.
- You simply make sure you let them know your summary understanding of what they said or what they were talking about.
- Empathize and/or reinforce them.
- You take control of the conversation to move it along to your next preferred step.