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Three Ways to Stop the Endless Talker

    In my last post, I spoke to those who are endless talkers.  They know who they are.  They know this because somewhere along the way in their lives someone told them.  It may have been said nicely, almost jokingly, by a sensitive friend or delivered directly without any filters as only a family member can.  But the point was made.  And no doubt that point was made enough times that a talker will confess in some of their conversations, "I know I talk a lot..."  So they get it.  However, knowing and doing are two separate actions, and knowing they talk a lot doesn't mean they will automatically stop.  In fact, once they get rolling it seems they can hardly reign themselves in.  Their brains are churning thoughts that come rushing out like water from a hydrant, and they can't seem to turn them off.  Then there are those whose hydrant is more like a garden hose that's been left on.  They take their time and let their words just flow and flow and flow; leading you the long way to get to their point--which by the time they reach it is pointless.  Regardless, they have to tell the story start to finish, and they will not reach the conclusion until they've covered every detail.
     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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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. 
  3. 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.
     The point is this:  always take back control of the conversation.  If you're talking, then you can guide it, shorten it, and end it.  Try these and let me know how they work for you.  And if you have any special techniques you use, share them below.  Next week, I'll look at profanity in conversation, and if it has any relevance in daily conversation.


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