Whether it's a co-worker, neighbor, or best friend, each of us occasionally encounters someone who talks too much. If you feel like cringing or feel the need to escape when you are with someone, you may need to set boundaries to help preserve the relationship.
It could be the long-time friend you meet for lunch who speaks continuously without allowing you to get a word in edgewise. Or it could be a chatty colleague who always seems to "over-share" too much personal information (TMI) — stuff you really would prefer not to hear or know about.
If it's someone that you can't easily delete from your address book — or your life — it can be pretty awkward figuring out what to say and how to say it.
Short of avoiding the individual entirely or blowing him/her off in a moment of frustration or anger, here are five strategies for handling someone who talks too much with as much grace as possible while maintaining your own sense of self-respect and dignity:
We are all taught to be polite and not interrupt. But if someone is delivering a soliloquy, it's perfectly appropriate to interrupt. You can change the subject, ask a question, or suggest that you pause to look at the menu.
2) Have A Heart-To-Heart
If it's a really close friend whose friendship you treasure — and this seems to be the individual's persistent style — you may need to bite the bullet and simply say what's on your mind: "I'm frustrated that I never get a chance to speak." The individual may feel so pressured to speak that he/she is not even aware that the conversation is always totally one-sided. Don't be surprised: Some individuals may even need multiple or periodic reminders.
3) Don't Inadvertently Feign Too Much Interest
If you're bored, show some signs of discomfort, whether it's squirming in your seat or yawning. Don't encourage the individual by asking too many questions, maintaining a plastic smile, or uttering too many uh-huh's — any of these might suggest you are interested, pleased, or agreeing with what is being said. Don't be afraid to seize control of the situation and change the course of the conversation.
4) Dilute The Contact
Limit the amount of time you spend together. If it's a friendship you don't want to lose entirely, you may need to set boundaries regarding how often you see the person and/or for what length of time. For example, the next time you get together, you may want to come prepared with an exit strategy, like: I'm glad we could meet for lunch but I have an appointment I need to keep at 2PM.
You can to arrange to see the individual in a group, with other common friends, or arrange to participate in some activity together, like a movie, where there is built-in downtime from constant conversation.
5) Accept What You Can't Change
Remember that every person, including you, is a package of good traits and some not-so-good ones. If the other person is unwilling or unable to change, you may come to realize that he/she isn't a completely bad egg and there are reasons why you are willing to put up with this one negative aspect of his/her personality. In some small proportion of situations like this, neurobiological disorders may be at the root of incessant talking; in that case, you may want to cut your friend some slack and suggest that the person seek professional help.