Dealing With Motormouths

In my previous post, Learning To Listen, I talked about how important it is to listen, yet how few people truly know how to do that.

This brought up the question in my mind, “What do we do when confronted with a person who won’t stop talking?”

We’ve all had instances in which someone latches on to us and tries to unload everything they know. The details of their latest operation. The latest happenings with their kids or grandkids. Complaints about their job, their coworkers, or the food.

We realize it’s important to listen, but where’s the limit?

In any conversation, there will come a time when the person you’re chatting with will let you have a turn, or it will become obvious they have no intention of stopping talking.

If the latter is the case, there are several tactics you can try. I would suggest starting with the most polite, and progress gradually to the more insistent.

One of the first things to try is to attempt to shift the conversation from a monologue to a dialogue. At strategic pauses in their talk, insert “cooperative” interruptions, such as “Well…” or “You know…”

If the person is at all alert to these conversational cues, this may be all you need. However, in some cases, your cues will be ignored. I remember instances in which on my trying these cues, the other person talked faster and louder, as though to keep me out of the conversation.

If your gentle cues are ignored, you can progress to something more direct, such as looking away from the person, looking at the doorway, even beginning to turn away.

The next step might be to begin to gently move away from the person, look at your watch.

If none of these work, you’ll have to verbally interrupt the person. “Please excuse me, I really need to be going,” or “I’m sorry, I need to move along now.”

If the other person continues to demand your attention, “Hang on a minute, you’ve got to hear this…” you can say something like, “Can you hold that thought? I’ve got to go, let’s take this up next time. So good to see you. Take care.” then smile and turn away.

It always gives me a bad feeling to be rude to anyone, but sometimes by not being rude to one person, you wind up being even more rude to many more people.

It will pay you to keep in mind that you can never change another person, you can only change yourself, so don’t think of trying to modify someone else’s behavior. (I’ll address the topic of influencing someone else to change their behavior in another post.)

Instead, keep your cool, keep your smile, and keep your friends, and make certain it’s not you that’s doing too much talking.


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