TDP Episode 79 photoEpisode 79:  Talkative, by host, Laura Milkins. Our guest, Brad Poole, tells the story of his depression, starting in childhood, and how Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has helped him more with depression than medication or other types of therapy. Sunday, February 4, 2018.

What If You Talk Too Much?
The cure for verbosity depends on its cause.
Posted Jan 22, 2015

In the confidentiality of my office, many clients have complained about coworkers, romantic partners, and friends who talk too much.

The cure depends on its cause.

You’d like to talk less but can’t make yourself stop. Use the Traffic Light Rule. During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green: The listener is on-board with you. During the next 30 seconds, your light is yellow: the person may be wanting you to stop, if only because s/he has something to add and fears s/he’ll forget by the time you finish. After the one-minute mark, your light is red: Yes, you’ll occasionally want to “run a red light,” for example, when telling something important or interesting that would take even a concise person more than a minute. But usually you should stop at the one-minute mark. If your conversation partner wants more, s/he may ask, and if not, you can ask “Would you like more detail?” or “Is there anything more you’d like to know about that?”

If you can’t seem to make yourself follow the Traffic Light Rule, perhaps you’re not good at estimating how long a minute is. Try this: Talk with a friend, setting a timer for one minute each time you begin an utterance. If you’re too talkative, you’ll often find yourself going on for longer.

If you predict an utterance could last more than a minute, before launching in, take just a moment to remind yourself to be concise. That will encourage you to self-edit.

You think that others appreciate your verbosity. Here are signs they’re not so appreciative: As you talk, do people other than laid-back types sometimes do one or more of the following:

  • Sigh
  • tap their fingers
  • tap their feet
  • shake their foot
  • nod impatiently as if saying “Get on with it.”
  • interrupt you
  • turn slightly away
  • take a step away
  • rarely start a conversation with you? For example, do they tend to walk past your cubicle without establishing eye-contact and in the break room not initiate conversation with you?
  • Are you the one you usually initiates contact? For example, you’re the one who phones friends and relatives?

Of course, there are many reasons a person would avoid you or feel frustrated with you, but one is loquacity.

You don’t realize you’re talking more than most people want to hear. A conversation isn’t a monologue. It’s a tennis game: back and forth with the ball in each court roughly half the time. Aim to talk between 1/3 and 2/3 of the time, in 5- to 60-second bits. If you’re often outside those ranges, you’ll probably want to change.

An unusually interesting person can make longer utterances. The question is whether you’re unusually interesting. To help assess that, ask an honest, not unduly-talkative person to have a conversation with you. Ask him or her to raise a finger each time s/he feels s/he wishes you’d stop talking.

You realize your loquacity bothers people but you decide it’s worth the price.

For example, you may enjoy talking about your vacation, pop culture, bragging about your family or even about yourself. Or you know you’ll gain clarity on an issue by continuing to talk about it until it becomes crystalline. Talking at length about such matters often comes at a particularly high price.

The takeaway

Being long-winded is a bigger problem than many talkative people realize. Fortunately, there are solutions.

Alas, while these solutions may seem easy to implement, in practice, they require a fair amount of discipline. If only unconsciously, many voluble people, despite paying the price, are heavily invested in their blabbing ways.

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