Compulsive talkers, as people who are overly chatty are often called, are an all too common phenomenon in the workplace.
Their excessive talking may drive you crazy, as well as make it impossible to get any work done. You may start to dread going into the office because you fear the time your chatty colleague will come over and interrupt your work — or, possibly even worse, your one free moment when you had hoped to take a break and relax.
Whether it’s a coworker who monopolizes a meeting with needless chatter about seemingly nothing of import or a boss who keeps you late at work with never-ending stories, talkers can suck the life out of your workweek. At a social event, you might be able to politely excuse yourself, but your power may be more limited in the workplace, especially if your colleague is your manager or higher up in the company.
How do you stop your colleague's excessive talking? If it reaches a point where it’s driving you crazy, it's time to address it.
How to deal with people who talk too much.
1. Listen first.
If you know the other person is a Chatty Cathy, you may be tempted to hightail it out of there immediately the second she approaches you. But before you do, wait to listen to what she’s actually saying for a bit. You don't have to stand there forever while the other person is droning on, but if she’s looking for attention, listening and demonstrating that you care about what she’s discussing may fulfill her needs. In fact, being a good listener and interacting by responding and asking questions may even make the conversation shorter, because she’ll receive what she was seeking in the first place.
2. Tell her you’re busy.
Some people may simply not realize they’re bothering you. If this is the case, explaining that you’re working on a project or just don’t have the time to talk at the moment could be the push they need.
3. Set up a specific time to talk.
If your colleague seems to interrupt you at the worst moments and won’t rest until she finishes her story, explain that you need to stay on a schedule, or you won’t finish your project. Propose another time to talk instead. While you won’t be able to get out of the conversation completely — assuming she doesn’t forget or start talking to someone else, which is highly possible — at least you’ll be able to resume the conversation when your less swamped with work and can do so on your own terms.
4. If you’re close to the person in question, privately take her aside and explain the issue.
Be polite and avoid being overly critical, because she’s probably not doing it to be malicious. However, it’s possible that she doesn’t know how she comes across to others, and a gentle reminder might help her. If she is aware, she’s probably heard it before, but discussing it in a polite, action-oriented, rather than critical, way could push her to try to resolve the issue.
5. Just leave.
If the problem has escalated to the point where you're unable to get any work done and you've tried addressing the issue with the talker, you may need to just leave the room. It may seem a little rude, but eventually, enough is enough.
What causes compulsive Talking?
Is there a disorder for talking too much? There are a lot of reasons why a person might talk too much. If could be a symptom of a larger issue, such as a disorder, or it could be a problem in its own right.
For instance, talkative people might suffer from conversational narcissism, the constant need to talk about and return the conversation to oneself. While most people enjoy talking about themselves to some degree, conversational narcissists can’t talk about anything or anyone besides themselves and will always find a way to meander the discussion back to her favorite topic — her. The classic example is the person who must always top your story with something that happened to her: “Oh, you’re feeling sick? Well, last year I was in the hospital and almost died.”
Short attention span.
Others may have a short attention span. That may cause these talkative individuals to flit from subject to subject without recognizing that they’re annoying other people and monopolizing their precious time. Not only are their stories not as interesting to their audience as they are to themselves, but they never even fully finish a story before turning to a new topic. This behavior is often characteristics of people with attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder (ADHD).
Poor social skills.
Some people might just have poor social skills. Compulsive talking can be a symptom of many psychological or neurological disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome and bipolar disorder (during a manic episode), as well as a simple lack of social awareness. Their need to speak may represent a lack of awareness that other people want to participate in a discussion—or simply don't want to listen to their monologues.
Dealing with problematic coworkers
Dealing with compulsive talkers can be very taxing, especially in work settings, but addressing the problem rather than letting it simmer can help you move past it — or at least keep it from bothering you to the point of insanity.
About the Career Expert:
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.