10 Ways to Deal with People Who Talk Too Much | The Success Alliance
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10 Ways to Deal with People Who Talk Too Much

People who talk too much

By Karyn Greenstreet

We’ve all experienced it: you’re in a conversation with someone and you can never get a word in edgewise. They hog the conversation and never ask how you’re doing, what you’ve been up to, or what your thoughts are.

(Admittedly, it’s time to look in the mirror. Think about the last three conversations you had. Did you do all the talking, all the listening, or was it a balanced conversation? Sometimes you’re the one who talks too much!)

When talkers are in your mastermind groups or classes, or if you’re working with them as private clients, colleagues or subcontractors, you need to take action to make sure they don’t dominate the conversation.

Why they do it

I spoke to three different psychologists, and they agree: People who talk too much are not aware they’re doing it. There are lots of reasons why they do it; here’s three to think about:

  • They do it as a reaction to a stressful situation. Talking calms them down and allows them to process their thoughts and feelings.
  • They do it because they need someone to listen to them or pay attention to them because they can’t get that need met elsewhere.
  • They do it as a way to control the conversation and dominate the people in the room.

Regardless of why they do it, the effects on you and others in the room can range from anger to anxiety. You feel frustrated and unacknowledged when the other person dominates the conversation. Groups working together can form a bond against the talker, which destroys the trust and rapport in the group.

How they can harm you and your business

  • They waste your energy. When you spend all your time listening to one person speak, your focus can’t be used elsewhere. This is huge if you’re working with a group of clients, because you must give attention to everyone evenly.
  • They waste time. The over-participator can wreak havoc on your meeting agenda or appointment calendar.

Tips for dealing with them

There’s an old saying, “Rewarded behavior is repeated behavior.” The reward for the over-participator is attention. If you allow this to happen, you are rewarding this disruptive (and toxic) behavior and it will continue. Here are some tips on taking care of the situation:

  1. Admit to yourself that this is an unhealthy conversation which is harming you and the group.
  2. Give yourself permission to require boundaries in your life and be willing to enforce those boundaries as necessary.
  3. Remember that they’re probably not aware they’re doing it. Starting from a place of good intentions helps you deal effectively with this problem. If you approach it with the idea that the person is simply rude and obnoxious, you’ll do a great disservice to this person. Your mindset will affect the outcome.
  4. Tell them what you’re noticing. If possible, give specifics, like, “Sam, in our last three meetings, even though we have a timer set so that everyone gets five minutes to share their best practices, you always go over and won’t stop talking when I ask you to.”
  5. Ask them to change their behavior. But don’t expect it to happen — they have gotten along for many years with this type of behavior and they’re unlikely to change just because you ask them to. Remind them of the harm it’s causing you and others.
  6. Set and manage expectations in advance. When you first get into a business relationship with someone, whether it’s a colleague, employees, or a client, explain your guidelines about courteous, productive conversations.
  7. If you’re in a group conversation, like a mastermind group meeting or group coaching session, decide how much time each member gets to speak, then stop them mid-sentence if necessary. Say something like, “Mary, you’ve brought up so many good ideas, let’s pause for a moment and let William give some feedback.”
  8. Whether you meet with your group in a physical meeting space or a virtual one, body language works wonders. Raise your hand in the “stop” sign (palm out towards the person) and say, “John, I want to make sure everyone has a chance to get involved with the conversation, so hold your thought. Does anyone else have something to add?”
  9. Don’t let their crisis become your crisis. They may promise to change their behavior, but when they’re stressed, they may revert back to the old habit. Don’t bite.
  10. Don’t take the lazy way out. Sometimes it feels easier to simply let them talk, figuring that they’ll eventually run out of steam. This seems like a simple solution, but the underlying harm it does is not acceptable.

With some courageous conversations and practice, you can ask for what you need and want from any relationship. Are you willing to give it a try?

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8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Deal with People Who Talk Too Much”

  1. Thando says:

    Great.

    But how can that person be helped to finally be able to limit their talk and be submissive too. I have a friend who talks too much, shouts and knows it all. I have told her not once not to shout, to consider other peoples ideas and personalities and to be open minded.

    I and other people always have to tolerate her and everyone gets stressed around her.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      You can’t force someone to change their behavior, you can only ask them to be more considerate of others, and explain why and how it affects you. If they’re not sympathetic to the stress it causes, then you have to decide if it’s worth having that person in your life.

      It’s a distressing situation and can cause much frustration and anxiety. But your needs must be considered, as well as the needs of the others in the group.

  2. Robin Shepperd says:

    This is an excellent article. I appreciate knowing the reasons why people talk too much in a group.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I’m glad you found it helpful, Robin. I don’t think that people are doing it on purpose. I think they get excited, they have a lot to share, and they’re not always aware of the balance of conversation. I look for one-time occurrences versus a long-time trend, and make a judgment call based on what I’m seeing over time.

  3. Oh Karyn…this is so good and something I am a little concerned with in starting my first MM group with friends…YIKES! The explanation of WHY people do this is helpful. On a comical side, once a longtime female friend and me drove to the east coast of Canada on a little road trip. My wonderful friend Val (who was in a very stressful situation in life) talked all the way from Ontario right through the next province over, Quebec (about a day and a half). I drove in silence. When she ‘finished’ she took in and let out a huge sigh!

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      Sometimes we just need to “talk it out,” Michelle. But don’t let that put you off starting your first mastermind group. You’ll learn how to deal with this situation and teach people how to have clarity, be succinct, and respect others’ needs as well as their own. 🙂

  4. Lynette says:

    Sometimes people talk too much because they have Aspergers. Ever thought if that? Be courteous to the person doing all the talking. They may have an illness and can’t control it.

    1. Karyn Greenstreet says:

      I didn’t know that, Lynnette, thanks for the information!

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