our everyday life

How to Handle an Excessive Talker

by Elise Wile, studioD

French writer and philosopher Voltaire once said, "The secret of being a bore is to tell everything." Go to any gathering, however, and you'll quickly discover that most people are unfamiliar with Voltaire's observation. From the woman who tells you her life story to the man who waxes poetic about his boat for 40 minutes, overtalkative bores are everywhere. Dealing with them effectively can mean the difference between a nice evening and one that makes you wish you'd stayed at home with your cat.

Listen to the person. While you might not have a chance to get in a word edgewise, you can view listening as a favor to the talker. It is also an opportunity to attempt to discern his motives, says Sophia Dembling, author of "The Introvert's Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World," in a "Psychology Today" article. The talker might be trying to gain your admiration by rambling on about the important people he knows. Another loquacious person might be trying to convince herself that she really will quit her job and move to France when she talks on and on about her future plans. At times, realizing the person's motivation can help you ease her insecurities.

Say, "Let me interrupt you for a second." In some cases, this action will help the person realize he has talked for too long. If the talker is unable to recognize this and continues talking, interrupt him again once he begins to change the subject. Add a comment or story about your own life that relates to the talker's experience, advises psychotherapist F. Diane Barth in a blog for "Psychology Today." This will help to change the dynamic of the conversation from a one-sided soliloquy to a two-way exchange.

Listen carefully for a thread within the talker's monologue that interests you. Ask the overtalkative person about that detail in order to "be able to keep your eyelids raised," author Daniel Menaker says in "A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation." For example, if the person is telling you a long, drawn-out story about his divorce and happens to mention that his ex-wife hated his playing the piano early in the morning, seize the opportunity to steer the subject from a post-divorce rant to a pleasant discussion about music by asking him what music he enjoys or where the best place in town is to listen to live piano music.

Stop the conversation once it has gone on too long for your comfort, Barth says. You have the right to set boundaries on your time and attention, and there is nothing wrong with getting up and saying, "I'm going to go talk to Diane for a bit before I have to leave," for example.

Set a time limit on your conversation if the talker approaches you again. Say, "I have to get back to work in 10 minutes, but tell me what's going on." Once time is up, you can gracefully excuse yourself.


About the Author

Elise Wile has been a writer since 2003. Holding a master's degree in curriculum and Instruction, she has written training materials for three school districts. Her expertise includes mentoring, serving at-risk students and corporate training.

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