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10 Ways to Stop Talking Too Much

Are You a Chatterbox?

Do you know someone who talks too much? I’m sure you can think of an acquaintance or colleague who makes you want to head in the opposite direction as soon as you see them coming. Maybe you’re bringing to mind the aunt or uncle who starts off asking how you’re doing, but without even giving you a chance to respond, launches into the tedious details of the medical procedure they underwent six months ago. The person you’re thinking of may be a sweet, friendly and well-meaning magpie. Or he may be an extroverted windbag—always cracking jokes and full of gossipy tidbits.

Guess what. The person you’re thinking of is you! To the irritation and dismay of those around us, we ALL talk too much sometimes. Whether our chattiness is needy or noisy, when we start over-sharing, we become tolerable only in small doses. We leave the person we’re yammering to wondering why we keep rambling on long after they’ve lost interest.

On the occasions when we talk too much, we miss the generous stream of verbal and non-verbal clues heaped on us by our disinterested audiences. We miss the folded arms, stony faces, wondering eyes and vague remarks of the bored. We fail to notice how conversations sometimes break up as soon as we appear. Like the fat kid at a birthday party, we obliviously eat more than our fair share of cake.

The Dangers of Talking Too Much

We all gossip sometimes. Occasionally, we become over-excited and hog the flow of conversation. Most of the time we manage to keep our chattiness from getting out of control. We have all had instances, however, where running our mouths has had far-reaching consequences:

  • Talking too much can destroy our friendships
  • Talking too much can cause strife in our family lives
  • Talking too much can cause co-workers to distrust us
  • Talking too much can keep us from advancing at work
  • Talking too much can get us fired

One of my newest coaching clients is a talented and engaging young man. He completed university well ahead of his peers and is holding down a good job with a large company. He has identified one major challenge he’d like to work on: sometimes he talks too much. I’m inspired by this young man’s wisdom and bravery. He has recognized what most of do not—that the words that come out of our mouths should always be under our full control. Together we will work through strategies to help him develop high levels of discipline governing his speech. This will place him even further along the road to success in his career and in life.

Here are 10 steps we can all take to help us take control of unguarded speech:

1. Take Responsibility

Whether you’re an occasional over-talker, or a full-time blowhard, recognizing that there is room for improvement, and that you have the power to change is the first step to succeeding at any personal goal. In his brilliant book, ‘The War of Art‘, Steven Pressfield writes, “There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny.” All bad habits can be broken.

2. Keep A Log of Transgressions

Benjamin Franklin built his strong character by recording his progress on personal development tasks every day. He was famous for keeping a special notebook for this purpose even into old age. Keeping a record of the number of times in a day when we shoot off at the mouth can help us to gauge the severity of our over-talking. To become more mindful of when your mouth should be kept shut, record the following in a notebook daily for at least a week:

a) Each time you offered up criticism or hurtful opinions about other people
b) Each time you let confidential or unflattering details slip about a friend, family member or colleague
c) Each time you blurted out inappropriate personal information or secrets
d) Every instance when you rambled on in conversation giving unsolicited details

3. Become a Good Listener

Listening is hard work. To become good listeners, we must develop a genuine interest in other people. One of the adages from Stephen Covey’s best-selling book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘ is “Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then be understood.” Look for opportunities to ask people open-ended questions about themselves. When they respond, instead of looking for the first opportunity to jump in and relate a similar experience, ask them to elaborate.  You will find that others enjoy talking with you a lot more when you give them the opportunity to talk about themselves.

4. Be Sensitive to Cues

A conversation should be an ongoing exchange. As in a game of tennis, if someone decides to hog “the ball” instead of volleying, the game will be over. People will generally let us know when we’re hogging the ball—we just need to pay attention to the cues. Their eyes will stray, they will fiddle and seem distracted. They respond to our drone with a few polite smiles, nods and okays, all the while thinking of clever ways to escape. Learn to sense disinterest in others and either engage them or be the one to end the conversation.

5. Practice the One Sentence Rule

Practice responding to any question in a single thoughtful sentence. This will require some effort. Compose your response carefully before speaking, instead of thinking aloud and rambling on. Then pause, and wait for a response. If your conversation partner is interested in what you have to say, they will dig deeper and ask questions. If they don’t, this is a clue that you shouldn’t continue talking. You should aim to own only 30%-40% of the talk time in any conversation.

6. Calm Down

For some of us, talking too much is a defense mechanism—a sign that we are feeling nervous, tense or uncomfortable. One great way to slow down our racing inner clocks is to spend a few moments in meditation each day. Sit or lie quietly with your eyes closed and a half-smile on your face. Focus on your breathing. Feel all the rhythms of your body as you inhale and exhale. Do this upon waking, and several times per day for ten breaths. Work toward spending as much as 30 minutes daily bringing your mind in tune with your breathing. You will begin to feel a greater sense of control and calm in everything you do.

7. Embrace Solitude

Sometimes when we talk too much, we’re performing—working hard on presenting the best version of ourselves. We’re uncomfortable being alone, and may find ourselves constantly craving an audience. Stillness requires discipline. Spend 30 minutes to one hour a day engaging the practice of a quiet activity that requires concentration. Read a book, or listen to an audiobook. These quiet activities will help you to exercise your mind without simultaneously engaging your mouth.

8. Work up a Sweat

Talking too much may be the result of having excess nervous energy. Vigorous exercise is a great way to rid ourselves of the desire to keep talking. When we tire out our bodies, our brains settle down as well. Even people who talk too much as a result of ADHD benefit from significantly reduced symptoms as a result of regular exercise.

9. Build Mystique

People are more interested in those who have a bit of mystery about them. We don’t need to blurt out all the details of what’s going on in our lives all the time. Speak generally. The less we say, the more interesting we become to friends, co-workers and even lovers. Keep some things to yourself, and allow others to discover more about you over time.

10. Commit to Self-Improvement

At times, we over-talk as a result of insecurity. With bosses, colleagues and strangers, we overuse conversation is an attempt to improve our image. We brag about our achievements and season our conversations with names and details that help us seem more successful, and our lives more glamorous. This insecurity may also cause us to become judgmental toward others. We inadvertently criticize people and spread unflattering gossip as a way to bolster our self-image. When we discipline ourselves to invest more time working on becoming better, we have less of a need to cover up our inadequacies by trying to convince others of how great we already are.

 

 

 

About Joya Martin

I am an award-winning business leader and experienced accounting professional living in the gorgeous Caribbean. I'm inspired by books, photography, art, beauty, nature, freedom, learning and love. My passion is continuous learning, growth and improvement. I believe in people. Here you will find the tools, tips and motivation you need to help you achieve happiness and success beyond your wildest dreams.

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21 Responses to 10 Ways to Stop Talking Too Much

  1. August 16, 2016 at 9:54 PM

    I found myself nodding my head more than once and found this advice gives me hope! I have lost jobs in the past annoying co-workers with my excessive talking. I have just started a new job and plan to start a log and begin to build that mystique!

  2. November 16, 2015 at 10:03 PM

    Thanks for writing this! This was perfect for someone like me that randomly looked up something on this subject out of the blue! I’m not gonna lie, but I’ve had this problem for 16 years! Ever since the day I could speak, and I’ve gotten many a “shut the hell up!” over the years! I’ve only started to realize I’ve had a problem when people at my job became annoyed with me, and told me I talked way too much. Thanks, this will help me so much in life! :)

  3. October 7, 2015 at 11:27 AM

    What a wonderful article. Do you have any other books you would reccommend to become a better listener and to just stop talking so darn much. I truly try and my mouth runs over with my brain. Not sure how to stop it. Thanks

  4. Mary
    October 4, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Ok, I am here because this morning at church I watched myself interrupt the minister while she was telling story to talk about me !!! We were in a small group after service and she was talking about how she got a bargain at a store as someone had complimented her on her jacket. I had to butt right in and talk about the jacket I was wearing and what a bargain it was, too.

    Maybe others didn’t really see it but I saw the minister was irritated and I had to ask myself – why would I interrupt someone telling a good story? Could I just wait politely and listen to her, and then if it seemed appropriate – tell my little story? Did I really have to stop her conversation to talk about myself. Ouch.

    Self awareness is painful, but this is a nice church and I am a new member (so, double ouch on my poor manners). I am going to think about these comments and work on changing my own behavior because I feel ready to see my part in my social awkwardness, I think it is time to learn some new and better patterns for being with people socially. I am just glad that I have the awareness of my behavior and that it is not helping me but is hurting me as I try and connect with others. Thank you for a great article !

    • Joya Martin
      October 25, 2015 at 7:19 AM

      Thanks for reading the article and for taking the time to comment. You’re right, self-awareness is painful, but it is one of the surest paths to growth and improvement. Your comments have illuminated two important insights that I probably should have included in my article. The first one has to do with tempering the tendency to be overly enthusiastic about jumping into a conversation in an effort to participate fully. The second point has to do with controlling the desire to be the center of attention, learning to admire others quietly and patiently give them a chance in the spotlight.

      I have no doubt that you will accomplish your goals in this area. All the best in your journey!

      Cheers,
      Joya

  5. August 3, 2015 at 2:48 PM

    What a smart, helpful article. Something relatively rare in this day and age! I’m currently working on my Masters in counseling, and have realized that, to be more effective, I need to work on listening more and talking less. Everything you say is identifiable and correct, particularly regarding the need to present a certain image. The only part that doesn’t apply to me? Exercise! I said to my boyfriend just now, “I could go to the gym for two hours, then come home and talk about what I did at the gym for 3 hours.” He was quiet…(I’d managed to ramble about the ways I intend to stop rambling). I am on the way to adopting a new mantra: “the words that come out of our mouths should always be under our full control.” Well said!

    • September 5, 2015 at 12:32 AM

      Word.

      • Joya Martin
        September 27, 2015 at 9:11 PM

        Thanks, Stephanie! :-)

    • Joya Martin
      September 27, 2015 at 9:11 PM

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback, Charlotte! I’m so glad you’ve found the article to be helpful. We are all guilty of talking to much at one point or another. Good luck in your journey and here’s wishing you every success in your chosen career path.

      Cheers,
      Joya

  6. July 17, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    This is the best article I have ever read in the recent times. It came at a time I needed it most. Thanks author.

  7. January 19, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    Hi Joya, I really enjoyed this article.

    I am a full on chatterbox and I really want to stop talking so much before I start working full time. I have always been a chatterbox, I started speaking very early as a child and throughout school, college, part time work and now uni I have also had the comments about how much I talk. A lot of articles I have read said how we need to listen more but I listen so much however I have been told I always refer back to myself, which I never noticed until I thought about it but I thought of it more as I understand because I’ve been there. I have suffered with anxiety and think it is nervous sometimes but Can you recommend any books or other advice?

    Thank You x

  8. December 31, 2014 at 5:32 AM

    Thanks so much for the specifics. I found this post to be invaluable.

  9. July 3, 2014 at 2:33 AM

    Joya,it is great that I have found your site while surfing the web. I have been in Sales and Marketing for 20 yrs and and a business owner for 15 yrs. I have been told I talk to much by my family, I have sever hearing loss so talk loud to hear myself. I felt shame when I went to a meeting for a non-prfoit Organization, I spoke about some of my approach at how to raise funds and apply for grants

    . I was in California, but I live in Texas so I wanted to share some nuggets on grants to apply for before I left, . We had another donor there and after I got back to Texas I felt embarrassed that I took some of his questions and answers to the Director. My Nephew took us there and I feel he is mad that I talked to much , he made a statement to my friend that is famous that he would bring me by but i would talk for two hours, when I called to apologize he would not talk to me, or return my calls. I want to reivent myself to shut up and listen more. i will keep notes from your web site. Thanks this perked me up to work on my mouth.

    • August 3, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      Gregory, consider this. It is not the worst characteristic in the world to love communication! I have the same problem you do, and frequently turn people off. What I have found is that when I encounter another chatter box, we have the most wonderful conversations and learn a great deal from each other (as long as we can both avoid interrupting each other).

      Learning self-control is ALWAYS a good thing, and that’s what we can take away from this. Joya has made many great points to that effect. Reading your story reminds me that, while over-talking can be annoying and, at times, rather selfish, we are not intentionally annoying people. Do not let this part of your personality legitimize those in your life who don’t appreciate you. Work on self-control, but remember to keep that enthusiasm. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m sure Joya would agree!

  10. February 6, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    One of the BEST pieces of advice I EVER got was to Shut Up. All the way through school, I was one of the first people to raise my hand with an answer. Finally, in college, a leader of a club I was in asked to talk to me after our meeting. He said, “Mark”.
    “Yeah.”
    “Shut up!”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You ALWAYS have an answer for every question. Frankly, they are usually thoughtful, good responses, but when you talk, other people stop. Some people need time to think and a moment of silence before they’ll speak up. From now on, I don’t want you to EVER be the first person to respond.”

    I took that advice to heart and ever since then, I have literally tried to never be the first person to respond or ask a question in a public or group setting. It has helped me tremendously and I’ve been told in recent years that I’m a great listener. WOW! Nobody would have said that about me in school!

    Thanks for reminding me of this Joya!

    • June 6, 2015 at 11:16 AM

      you should focus on the other person what they are said and you not to speak anything and prepare your mind to be free not think so much because when you talk to another person if you think so much about that point then you easily speak more so that is not good it create bad effect on others.

  11. November 3, 2013 at 8:37 PM

    Thank you Joya :) I found this post extremely helpful as I can be a blabber mouth myself. This game me some practical ways , some of which I have tried and REALLY work. I enjoyed reading this. Keep posting please ^_^

    • Joya Martin
      November 3, 2013 at 9:43 PM

      I’m so happy you found this post helpful, Kelly-Lois! Thanks for reading! :-)

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