by Cathy Holloway Hill
We all know someone who talks non-stop. In moderation, talking can be very enjoyable and enlightening, but there’s a fine line between quality conversation and non-stop chatter that has no value. Whether it’s your best friend, a family member, your child, a co-worker, or someone you don’t know, these tips will have you tactfully manage the situation without offending the chatterbox:
- If your chatterbox friend calls you on the phone, immediately tell him/her that it’s great they called, but you only have 5 or 10 minutes because you’re in the middle or preparing dinner, or preparing to walk the dog, or stepping into the shower, etc. Do not stop what you’re doing to allow the chatterbox to dominate your time. Be honest about whatever you’re doing at that moment even if you’re relaxing and doing nothing; it’s still ok to say I only have 5 or 10 minutes because I’m in the middle of something. There’s no rule that says you have to share specifically what you’re doing. It’s your time, and you have a right to determine how much of it you’re willing to share at that moment. Allowing your friend to control your time only causes resentment. Be honest about your time, and they will appreciate your honesty.
- Redirect the conversation. If your friend is someone you’d be happy to chat with at a more convenient time, offer to reschedule your talk. Try saying, “this is a great story, but may I call you back later to hear more? This takes away the sting of possible hurt feelings from your friend.
- Try the future fend-off. If the long-winded chatter-box happens to be a very close friend (or family member), it’s best to confront the matter head-on by letting them know that while you enjoy the relationship and the conversations, you never seem to have enough time to finish the conversation. So make suggestions of how you can rectify the situation – possibly getting together for lunch or dinner or a time more convenient instead of dropping in (or calling) in the middle of the day or in the middle of preparing for dinner and family time.
- If the person is sensitive, then try putting the responsibility on you. Say something like “This isn’t you, it’s me”, and “I’m perpetually rushed” or “I am not a good phone person because I’m always busy multi-tasking when I talk on the phone, and I want to ensure you have my full attention”, so let’s try to come up with a viable alternative for us both.” This may be a difficult conversation for even the most assertive among us. But unless you initiate or try to confront the situation, then it’s partly your fault for allowing the person to control your time.
By setting fair and respectable ground rules, you can have conversations when you’re ready to give the person your full attention, which, in the long run, will result in both you and your chatting friend feeling good about the relationship.