You talk too much, you worry me to death, you talk too much you even worry my pet, you just talk, talk too much. Listen to the 1960 classic by Joe Jones
When it comes to talking, how much is too much is a matter of opinion. But we’ve all known someone who goes on and on and, apparently, doesn’t know how to stop. Ask just the right questions and you’ll be entertained—or bored and frustrated—for hours.
Or maybe you’re the life of the party. In many cases, you’re much appreciated. But sometimes you don’t realize you’ve been talking so much or for so long—until somebody points it out—or you just can’t figure out how to bring things to a close. Other times you’d rather not talk at all. But someone’s got to do the talking, right?
The non-stop talker—or NST for short—is sometimes labeled an “energy vampire” by those of us who end up feeling exhausted around such lively conversationalists. And the NST may fear there’s something “wrong” with her; why can’t she stop talking? One woman I know suspects she might be hyperactive, and she was even given medication which had such unpleasant side-effects that she decided she’d rather talk a lot than take medication for an uncertain diagnosis.
While there may be some people who talk “too much” for treatable medical reasons, I suspect they’re far and few between when the only symptom is seemingly unstoppable chitter-chatter. Generally speaking, the problem is just that both people in the conversation are unskilled at maintaining a healthy balance of give and take, and neither side knows how to end the conversation graciously.
So what can you do about someone who talks a lot?
If you’re on the receiving end of the NST, and if you don’t feel like listening or taking part in any way, hold off on judgment and pay attention to yourself. What would you rather be doing?
1. If you’re at a party or other social function, you have an easy way out. Simply smile and excuse yourself at a pause in the conversation. Finding the break might be tricky, but practice makes perfect. If someone is launching into a new story, just say, “I’m sorry. That sounds really interesting but I want to make sure I have a chance to talk with everyone. Please excuse me.” And follow through.
2. If you’re on a plane or a train or a bus, what would you be doing if you didn’t have such a lively travel companion? Simply ask the NST to allow you to do that. “This has been such a great conversation, but I’d like to read now.” Or snooze. Or relax. Or watch the movie. If the person continues to talk, simply smile and close your eyes or return to gazing out the window.
3. If the NST happens to be your date, consider yourself lucky, and think of it as an opportunity to be a good listener. Unless you’re at a movie and the people behind you are kicking your seat, remember that it could be worse. Ask lots of questions and pay close attention to the answers—you might learn a lot. If he reciprocates, by all means do your best to share in equal measure, or as much as you’re comfortable with. If he doesn’t, then a “No, thanks” is probably the right response if he asks for a second date.
4. Remember that your level of relaxation helps other people to relax. Is there anything you’re doing that might make someone nervous and extra-talkative? Are you fidgeting, sighing, cracking your knuckles, biting your nails, grinding your teeth, fussing with your carry-on bag? Even if you’re doing those things for reasons of your own, they may be affecting the NST—and his way of dealing with stress might be talking. So relax. Even if it’s just for your own benefit, it might help the NST to relax as well.
If you’re the non-stop talker who wants to talk just a little bit less:
5. Instead of talking about your own favorite topics (that you’ve already heard many, many times), try channeling your energy into asking questions and drawing people out. You might be surprised that so many people are more willing to talk when they feel certain someone is interested in what they have to say.
6. Learn to relax. If you practice relaxing in complete quiet at home, alone, you’ll soon learn to relax silently with others. Many people are so used to being “plugged in” and “on call” that they don’t know what to do without constant stimulation. Consider meditation or yoga, if you don’t already practice one or the other. Or simply sit quietly, as often as you can, for 15 or 20 minutes with the TV, cell phone, and any other potential distractions turned off.
7. Bring something to do while on a train or a plane. You might be lucky if you’re seated next to someone who loves to talk (or listen). But if you’re seated next to someone who doesn’t feel like chatting, it’s good to have a book or whatever gadgets you like on hand to stay occupied in ways other than talking.
If someone who talks too much is challenging for you, remember that you might also be a challenge for him.
Someone who loves to talk might also enjoy meeting other people who enjoy a lively conversation. So while you’re rolling your eyes inwardly about the NST, remember that he might also be wondering how he got stuck with a quiet type like you.
Conversations require a minimum of two people: one to talk, and one to listen. Truly enjoyable conversations are somewhat balanced: each person has an opportunity to both talk and listen.
Some people naturally talk more easily than they listen, and vice-versa. But if talkative types can learn to listen a little more, and if quiet types can be comfortable asking for quiet when they need it or even relish the company of someone who talks a lot, we might all enjoy conversations just a little bit more.
Comments are always welcome