What to Do When Someone Talks Too Much

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If it hasn’t happened to you already (probably multiple times), it will.

At some point, you’re going to be trapped in conversation with an over-talker. And it’s bound to be a little awkward as you try to navigate an exit on the fly. Do you make up an excuse (um, i.e. lie)? Do you try to send non-verbal cues (like checking your watch 95 times)? Do you just give in to a momentary lapse of rudeness (I don’t have time for this)?

Here’s a few relatively gentle solutions to try as you break away from the dreaded over-talker.

5 Tips for When You’re Trapped With an Over-Talker

  1. Listen. Sometimes people go on and on because they don’t get the sense that they’re being understood. If you want to be a real friend, try to listen carefully, clearly affirm their feelings, and check for understanding. “So what I am hearing is you’re unhappy?” is one example of that. You might even need to ask, “How can I help you with this?” When you help fulfill their needs–whether they’re seeking advice, affirmation, or just a person to vent to–they may conclude the conversation on their own.
  2. You MAY have to *politely* interrupt. Try “May I interrupt you for a moment?” or “I hate to interrupt you but…” Unless they have some truly toxic behaviors, an over-talker will almost always reply that they do not mind being interrupted and will pause–sometimes just long enough for you to steer the conversation toward meeting their needs and, ultimately, a conclusion.
  3. Change directions. Gently steer the conversation in a new direction. “We could talk about this for hours. But I really want to hear more about your family, the guy you’re dating, that new diet you’re on…WHATEVER…too.” Once emphasis shifts and they’re talking about a less weighty, intense topic, they’re less likely to return to the former subject.
  4. Put a pin in it. When you literally cannot take another word, it’s time to offer a stalling tactic. “You know, I have some other things I have to get to, but let me think about this some more and get back to you.” If you give this one a whirl, though, make sure to be sincere and follow up…even if it’s just in an email. Don’t send a super-lengthy email (that may result in lonnnnng, drawn out exchanges), just casually insert some support into a normal message.  “You know, I’ve been thinking about what you were saying, and it does sound like you’re under appreciated. I’m sorry it feels that way.”
  5. Avoid fake encouragement. If someone has been going on for a half hour about their lack of a social life, for example, don’t insincerely encourage more sharing. For example, don’t say untruthful things like “Tell me more” or “Interesting” if you don’t want to be told more and DON’T really find the topic interesting. And if you don’t want to go five more rounds on the topic, don’t offer experiences from your life to compare to theirs, as this may provide fuel for continuing talking about the subject for much longer.

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  1. ContraryMary

    We prob all talk too much sometimes! These are good reminders. But THEN there’s the people who talk too much ALL the time. Then all you can do is run the other way in my experience!!!!!!

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