Listening skills are great, polite, and all that good stuff. But how do you handle the people who talk too much? Here’s how to deal with them.
I’m a good listener, which is a gift and a curse. The gift is I can laser in on the thing everyone yearns for—attention and to be understood. The curse is that… I might end up listening to your endless monologue. Because there are some people who talk too much.
So even though I am a good listener, I don’t give all my time away to attention-craving vampires who want to suck my soul from my-
-wait… I might be exaggerating there, but there’s not much difference when you’re actually caught in a diatribe about the latest this, that, or whatever the hell it is that seems so important to you and therefore me by default…
The mirror neurons, talking too much, and empathy
Let’s start again. Humans are unlike any other animal in how well we empathize with each other. We gain a strikingly accurate sense of how someone’s feeling, almost as if we were them. This seems to be due to the function of ‘mirror neurons’ in the brain.
The idea is, due to mirror neurons, I simply look at your facial expression and body language and roughly gauge what you likely experience as if I were you. So this allows for very intricate connections between people during an interaction *you’d think people would also be able to tell when they speak too long…*
Note: people with autism are more likely to be unsure of how to interpret what the other person might be feeling just by clocking their responses, though they may feel that person’s energies intensely.
But you could also just be a chatterbox who loves to talk, and talk, and talk… zzzzz.
Okay, but is a chatterbox such a bad thing?
I’m awake again… Often you don’t miss what you had until it’s gone. Chances are if someone likes talking with you, they like and trust you. So, getting paranoid about them and making them into ‘the bad person’ *like that grey donkey from Shrek* might not be such a great thing.
And people who talk too much, well, really, anyone can develop the habit of talking a lot. It feels good to be listened to!
Say you had a friend who was really chatty. Way more chatty than you naturally are. If you just stopped replying to them or started being rude, they might straight up get offended and stop hanging out with you. Later, you might end up realizing that despite the extreme talking in your ear, you actually really enjoyed being around them.
But sometimes people talk in a way that feels overbearing, as if they try to dominate or control you in some way. This type of relationship isn’t worth it and remove myself from those people or dealing with them leads to a 1000% improvement. The question is how do you deal with that person without it blowing up in your face?
The people who talk too much
Well, first we need to dive into the reasons why someone might chat LOAADSSS… you know like the saying says—seek to understand first, then to be understood.
#1 They may be a raving lunatic extrovert. This just is what it is. Introversion and extroversion, in the clinical psychology world, are social science based descriptions of personality. Some people like to talk, man. It amps them up, get them excited about life, and gives them energy.
Meanwhile, for others it becomes tiring if overdone. An extremely chatty person could be on the extreme end of extroversion.
#2 They may be narcissistic. To be honest, everyone likes to talk about themselves but most have enough common sense to limit it. If a person seems to make themselves the subject of every conversation they may just be self-indulgent.
#3 They may be very articulate. Being able to think and string accurate words quickly is a skill. It’s also a very powerful tool and potential weapon. When you know you express yourself exceedingly well, the question becomes ‘why not do that a lot and influence circumstances?’ Some people have this skill down pat.
#4 They may be insecure. Stillness, quiet, solitude, meditation, silence, arghhhh!! When you’re not talking or being exposed to stimulus, your thoughts and feelings quickly flood you. We often suppress negative feelings with food, entertainment, and other distractions.
Very talkative people tends to use talking as a way of pushing away their own thoughts and feelings. If the top issue for focus is always out there, then you don’t have to deal with the inside.
#5 They may have underdeveloped listening skills. A lot of people I’ve come across who talk overbearingly don’t like to listen. This isn’t to say that they aren’t astute observers of the world. They may just gain their information through gauging reactions and having verbal combat.
#6 They may be under stress. We live in an unprecedentedly busy world. There is so much noise and stimulus that we don’t always get time to even think and decompress our reality.
To top that, when you’re dealing with a lot of chaos and challenges, it can be a ton of mental data to break down and make sense of. And maybe your way of doing that is to talk it through.
#7 They may be nervous around you. Say you’ve got a crush on someone, admire them highly, or still developing your social skills. In these cases, you’re more likely to make social faux pas.
You feel a need to cover awkward silences with mindless chatter. In many ways, this is a sign of empathy. So, when somebody talks a lot when they you talk to you, take a step back and think about the effect you might have on them.
#8 They may be jealous of you. It’s like the envious father who bears down on the unusual child: ‘no, this is the way you’re supposed to look at things…’ That kind of assertion of the status quo can be an effort to minimize you as a threat or competition—to not change things.
#9 They may just not like you. Sometimes you just can’t bear to hear someone speak to you because you know you… won’t… like… what… they… say. One way of stopping this is to just speak first and forcefully, so the other person doesn’t get a chance to find their rhythm.
#10 They may want to hold power and control. When you speak, the most it gives you is more opportunity to influence a situation or person. This is especially true when people actively listen to you and respond affirmatively.
#11 They may have no respect for your opinions. If a person doesn’t respect you as a person they probably don’t care about what you’re up to or your personal development. You just become an object they talk at. Perhaps to satisfy their own ego. Or to use as a listening machine while they develop and sharpen their thoughts.
How to deal with people who talk too much
Now that we have why people who talk too much do, let’s look at different approaches to dealing with the overbearing chatterbox.
#1 Being disagreeable. Imagine a random talkative person engaging Obama without giving him the room to speak… If somebody values your thoughts, they want to hear your responses. When I’m repeatedly given no space to speak, I assume that person doesn’t value me enough for me to tolerate their company. Or that they dislike or feel threatened by me.
Depending on the context, I’m more likely to look away, show them I’ve lost interest, or just end the conversation abruptly. People encroach on your personal sense of boundaries bit by bit. It’s better to set boundaries early.
#2 Being distractingly non-serious. I don’t engage overbearing talkers in serious conversation. That only makes me invest more of my own energy into their frame. Example:
Them – ‘I wanted to talk to you about this thing.’
You – ‘Did you just call me a thing?’
Them – ‘No, what?’
You – ‘How dare you’ *leaves*?
Distraction technique complete.
#3 Assessing whether they talk a lot with everyone. This gives you an enormous amount of information. Usually they have a reputation for being a force of nature.
People often make jokes about them such as ‘oh wait, I have to prepare myself.’ Then you know it’s not you targeted specifically. Though you may still want to establish fine boundaries.
#4 Interrupting them. Even if someone has a reputation for being a talker, doesn’t mean the person isn’t aware that they’re overbearing. This is the old ‘give them an inch and they’ll take a mile’ principle. If you let them establish a relationship where they’re talking at you, it only grows into a habit. Don’t be afraid to interrupt.
#5 Stopping them by paraphrasing. What happens is that they get into a stream of thought and the energy of what they’re saying makes them feel like they’re making all kinds of clever, rational, and important points.
But then they’re suddenly interrupted with a dissection of their last two sentences and errors reveal themselves… Paraphrasing or interpreting frequently makes the conversation clearer and more involving.
#6 Frequently asking what the focal point is. If there’s no problem or aim, then they just talk for talking’s sake. Remind them of this by bringing the convo back to a focal point. Then hone in on it ruthlessly, cutting off tangents. You’re not a wall. They need to learn respect for your time.
But on the flipside…
#7 Gaining info. Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk noted how convos between him and Facebook founder Mark Zuckenberg are mostly himself talking and ‘Zuks’ listening.
Gary mused that this could be why Mark’s made so much more money. Listening’s an overrated skill. It teaches you what makes people tick and how to read what people want/will do in the future.
#8 Deciding if you’re compatible. Do you feel better or worse after interacting with this person? If it’s a constant negative, then perhaps find ways to distance yourself from them. There are cooler people to be around.
#9 Showing empathy. Sometimes we just want to be understood. Most people don’t spill their life history to anyone who listens. They tend to choose people they like and trust. One of the five ‘love languages’ is ‘words of affirmation.’ If this is that person’s primary love language, then they may be just looking for some empathy. This can be particularly important after a traumatic or stressful experience.
Well I beat this one to death with a barrage of words. Sort of like people who talk too much, just with digital ink…
It can be tricky to work out why someone chats so damn much. But your time and emotional health are important. So seek to understand and establish boundaries with people who talk too much.