So imagine you're talking to Tammy Talks-a-lot, and she has just answered your burning question of the day: "How are you?" She is midway between the account of her gall bladder surgery in 2002 and the reflux and heartburn she's struggling with today, when you feel like clapping your hands on both sides of your face and running away in agony. Instead, you frantically search your mind for excuses to get away. Here are at least three ways you can rescue yourself from her verbal torture:
- If she stops to take a breath (because sometimes talkers don't), then interject. Always interject. Take back control of the conversation. Jump in and summarize the conversation for the speaker. Then move it in the direction you want it to go--to a conclusion. In this case, I would say: "Tammy I'm sorry to hear you don't feel 100%, but I'm sure you'll be better soon. Meanwhile, I have to get going because I have a full plate today. Feel better." And I'd walk briskly away before she could get another word out or attempt to walk with me so she can finish her story.
- Never let a talker invade your space (i.e. your office at work, your kitchen at home, your personal phone). When you control the environment, you control the conversation. You can always make an excuse and walk away if you're in their office or a hallway. However, when they have moved into your space, you are put in the awkward position of having to ask them to leave.
- For the people who repeat themselves in three different ways, interject and summarize what they said. If Tammy rambles a sentence that is 50 words long and states the same complaint at least three times in that meandering explanation, summarize by saying: "So you're feeling crummy today is what you're saying. Sorry to hear that, but you'll be okay--hopefully sooner than later. I have a jam-packed day today so I have to scurry. Feel better." Pat her on the shoulder. Walk away and don't look back.