I know I’ve gone on before about the importance of listening. Well, when it comes to talkaholics, scratch all that.

I’m kidding, a little, but in the presence of a talkaholic, listening isn’t really an option anyway. Conversation management is the best you can do.

Conversation management skills are a must when dealing with a talkaholic. Otherwise you’ll get so blown away and overwhelmed by their chatter that your life force completely drains out of you.

Ideally, conversation management skills will help talkaholics curb their habit of incessantly engaging in incessant chatter with much incessance.

Although all talkaholics are extroverts, not all extroverts are talkaholics. Far from it. Many of the best conversationalists I’ve known are extroverts – capable of back and forth conversation where each person speaks as much as the other and ask interesting, non-intrusive, questions.

And before you think I’m letting introverts off the hook here, I’m not.

Introverts aren’t talkaholics but some of them have a tendency to indulge in monologues. That is, they will go on for several minutes in excruciating detail about an area of expertise or topic of interest only to them and not their conversation partner.

While monologuing, they remain oblivious to verbal and non-verbal cues of boredom from their conversation partner, just like talkaholics do.

So the following conversation management skills apply when dealing with them too. Note how this type of listening is pretty much the opposite of how you would listen to someone in a normal conversation:

1. Interrupt. Often. Constantly. I confess that this doesn’t always work for me like I wish it would.

2. Ask intrusive questions. Maybe your rudeness will scare them away.

3. Selfishly redirect the conversation. I use this one the most. If I must endure chatter, it might as well be about something I’m at least vaguely interested in.

An example: a year or so ago, an introvert went on for about 15 minutes about the minutiae of his job. My total silence and lack of encouraging facial expressions and gestures should have given him an indication that he was being boring. Nope.

Finally, I said, “Unfortunately this is a topic I know absolutely nothing about and I have nothing to contribute to this conversation. So how about those Cubs!” Remarkably, he got the hint.

4. Use hand signals when necessary. I like this one, from the movie Devil Wears Prada:

Now for some speculation as to what causes talkaholism.

Open wounds don’t tend to heal…they fester. And one of the ways they can fester is through talkaholism.

So compassion is warranted.

Yet at the same time conversation is supposed be a two way street.  So when you find yourself on the wrong end of a one way street in a conversation with a talkaholic, it’s OK to speak up.

It’s very important to treat other’s people’s time  like the precious commodity it is and not selfishly consume it.

Or, in other words, all of us, talkaholics and non-talkaholics alike, need to STFU a lot more.


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Filed under: Conversation/CommunicationListening


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