I recently attended a dinner party where one of the participants talked the entire evening.
He told long, boring stories about his latest exploits. He interrupted others when they tried to speak. If anyone interjected their own experiences, he reverted the conversation back to himself.
This otherwise pleasant, affable man seemed oblivious to the reactions of his fellow diners. He failed to notice their obvious disinterest or recognize that they might have something to say.
When someone finally managed to divert the dialogue, Mr. Talkalot’s eyes glazed over and he got up to get more food. As soon as he returned to the table — you guessed it — he picked up the monologue where he’d left off.
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This person is a compulsive talker, a behavior most often associated with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity include excessive talking, blurting out answers, having difficulty waiting one’s turn in a conversation and interrupting or intruding on others.
Compulsive talkers can also be argumentative and short-sighted. They have trouble seeing others’ viewpoints or listening to what they have to say.
They may come across as rude and disrespectful, taking a “My way or the highway” stance and being unwilling to back down.
Some compulsive talkers are so annoying that folks avoid them at social gatherings.
Disgruntled listeners feel compelled to resort to normally unacceptable strategies, such as telling the offender to stop talking or butting in with stories of their own. Perhaps they resent being overlooked in conversations, as if they were less important. At the very least, they’re exhausted by the overtalker’s non-stop gabbing and having to wait for a split second of silence when they can finally speak.
Of course, overly loquacious people aren’t bad. In fact, they’re often uber friendly and tons of fun to be around. The goal is to harness their verbal energy so everyone gets a chance to talk.
Here are a few tips for dealing with compulsive talkers.
How to deal with a compulsive talker
Attempt to redirect the conversation. Without being confrontational, introduce another topic and ask others to share their thoughts.
Intervene. Kindly say, “Mary, you’ve gotten to talk for a while. I want to hear about Doug’s new job.”
Point out the pattern of interrupting. Kindly but firmly stop the overtalker in his tracks and say, “Matt, I asked Hillary a question and you cut her off. Please let her continue.”
Talk to the overtalker privately. If the behavior is interfering with meetings or family gatherings, take the offender aside, apprise him of your concerns and express the impact his actions are having on others. If you’re in a position of authority, develop a strategy for helping him change.
Leave the room. Sometimes the best answer is to let the compulsive talker hold court out of earshot. After all, some folks may be enjoying the conversation.
Orchestrate gatherings. Expand your guest list to include other talkers. Overtalkers are less offensive in large crowds and easier to tolerate with outgoing people in the room.