Being talkative is usually viewed as a positive characteristic. People with the gift for gab are said to be warm, friendly and outgoing. They put others at ease in social settings. They are described as being confident and natural leaders.
But chattiness can become excessive. Overly loquacious folks are seen as opinionated and disrespectful. They repeat the same stories and take too long to do it. Conversations invariably revolve around their latest exploits. They frequently interrupt others and redirect attention back onto themselves.
The situation can become so pronounced that friends and co-workers avoid talking with them or excuse themselves from the conversation.
Compulsive talking is a combination of two distinct traits: being highly verbal and failing to accurately read social cues.
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Talkaholics possess large vocabularies and enjoy explaining things to others. They often make excellent lecturers.
But they’re insensitive to the fact that their listeners are bored, disinterested or restless or that others might want to talk too.
When their excessive talking is brought to their attention they’re apt to deny it. They rationalize that their actions are friendly. They feel others enjoy listening to them talk.
Compulsive talking can be a sign of ADHD. The DSM-5 lists excessive talking, blurting out, difficulty waiting one’s turn in a conversation, and interrupting or intruding on others as symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity.
Anxiety is another cause of excessive speech. Individuals may be uncomfortable with breaks in the conversation so they carry on a nonstop monologue.
Overtalkers aren’t bad people. In fact, they’re trying their best to fit in. While their efforts may be misdirected, their hearts are in the right place.
HOW TO DEAL WITH A COMPULSIVE TALKER
Redirect the conversation. A lighthearted, “So Dave, how was your rafting trip?” quickly changes the subject and invites others to join the dialogue. Be willing to repeat this behavior as often as needed.
Interact in larger groups. It’s more difficult to hold forth when lots of people are present. It also allows for more side conversations that take the focus off the talkaholic.
Point out the behavior. Sweetly share your observations with the overtalker. But don’t hold your breath that the behavior will change.
Recognize others may be enjoying the interaction. You may have heard the stories a thousand times. But new acquaintances find them entertaining. Smile and lighten up.
Avoid contentious behavior. It seldom changes the talker’s actions and creates unnecessary hostility. Plus, it makes you feel angry and aggressive — two emotions you’d prefer to avoid.
Back away from the situation. Excuse yourself from the conversation and seek out someone else.
Consider finding another friend. If the relationship isn’t of utmost importance (such as your boss or sister-in-law) spend time with a different person.
Focus on strengths. Yes, excessive talking is annoying. But the offender may be a jewel in other ways. Keep those attributes foremost in your thoughts.
Be compassionate. Each of us has flaws. Be patient and understanding about others’ shortcomings.