If you have a chatty friend, you may notice yourself making statements like “Yea, but what I was trying to say earlier was…” quite often. This person may totally dominate your conversations and make it impossible to get a word in edgewise. A friend who talks too much can be a handful. But, you can learn to manage their chattiness, by using strategies to limit their talking and give yourself the opportunity to participate. In addition, it may be useful to tell your friend about their problem and set boundaries if they are not willing to change.
Don’t offer positive feedback.
You may wrongly assume that gratifying your friend with positive attention may help them finish up faster. It won’t. Placating them will probably only encourage them to talk longer. Instead, don’t give any positive feedback like saying “Ahh” or nodding your head.
Ask them to get to the point.
A long-winded friend may not know that they are boring you with their monologues. Once the chat becomes excessive, graciously ask them if they can wrap it up. This tactic would probably be inappropriate for someone you don’t know well, but it should be suitable and effective for a friend.
For example, you might say, “I’m sorry, you’re losing me. Can you summarize what you’re trying to say?”
Indicate that you’re short on time.
Let your friend know that you don’t have all the time in the world to listen to them talk. This might help you to become an active participant in the conversation or give you an opener to end the chat.
Say something along the lines of “I’d love to hear about your day, but I’m running late for an appointment. Can we start wrapping this up?”
You could also consider warning them at the beginning of a conversation that you have a limited amount of time to chat. Try letting them know, “I only have 5 minutes to talk right now, then I really have to get going.”
Pull someone else into the conversation or change the subject.
If you and your friend are in a group setting, one technique is to take away their captive audience—you. Look away and engage with someone else in the group to signal to your friend that they have lost your interest.
Another option is to abruptly change the subject. This works best with an environmental stimulus, like telling another friend “Oh, I love your scarf! Did I tell you guys about the new scarves I bought last weekend?”
Get lost in thought.
If push comes to shove and you can’t seem to get away from a chatty Cathy, use your imagination. Recall the plot of your favorite book or movie. Review fast facts for an upcoming test in your head. Or think about what you’d like to have for dinner.
Note that this suggestion would probably be considered rude. However, if you have tried other options to no avail, this may be the only way to deal with a friend who talks too much. Also, your friend may not even notice that you’re not giving them your full attention.
Stop the conversation if needed.
As a last resort, you may have to jump ship on the conversation and end it abruptly. You can do this by reminding them of the time or saying you need to go to the restroom. Be sure not to return to the same environment when you’re done, however. If you do, they just might start back up again.
You might say something short and sweet, like “I’m sorry. I have to go.”
Listen for a while.
Exercise your active listening skills for a short time as your friend talks. As you’re listening, try to understand their message and give them your full attention. Also, think about their emotional experience and motives. Why are they so desperate to talk at you instead of with you?
Understanding what your friend is trying to communicate can help you address their needs and get a say in the conversation.
Once you’ve had enough of listening and it’s clear you won’t be getting an opportunity to talk, butt in. You might wait for an obvious pause and then jump in with a response. Do so graciously. Ask if it’s okay if you say something or if they were finished.
For instance, you might start off by saying “Are you finished? I’d like to say something.”
Your friend may demand to finish talking. If so, let them.
Paraphrase what they were saying.
Proving that you’re listening can give you an opportunity to start your side of the conversation. Give a brief summary of their message in your own words. Ask them if your understanding is correct.
For example, you might paraphrase by saying, “I thought I’d try to say back what you said to me to make sure I got it right. Is that okay?” Then go on to say something like, “It sounds like you were really frustrated about your score on the math test because you put a lot of effort into studying. You’re confused about what you did wrong. Is that right?”
Assert yourself if they try to interrupt.
As you’re trying to summarize, your friend may attempt to take over the conversation again. Politely ask them to wait.
You might say, “I listened to you. Please give me a chance to finish what I was saying.”
Relay a story or experience of your own.
To fully make yourself an equal participant in the conversation, follow up the paraphrasing by offering your own contribution to the conversation. You might use their experience as a benchmark to share a similar experience of yours.
For example, you might follow up with, “Once I took a Latin test that I thought I had done well on. When I got my score back, I had a 0. Turns out, I had misread the instructions, which made all of my answers wrong. Luckily, the teacher let me make up the test. Maybe you will be able to do the same thing.”
Consider why your friend might like to talk.
Some people get chatty when they are nervous, some people struggle to read social cues, and some people just get excited. Try to be understanding of the many reasons your friend could be so talkative.This can help you better approach the subject in a positive and productive manner.
Skip the criticisms.
It’s true, your friend may be selfish or narcissistic, but it won’t benefit the friendship to label them. Avoid name-calling or criticisms at all costs—no matter how frustrated you become by your friend’s inconsiderate monologues.
Tell them how you feel.
If you want to maintain this friendship with your sanity intact, you will need to call attention to your friend’s bad communication habit. Speak up, gently.
Explain your issue with their chattiness by using “I” statements, which decrease the finger-pointing.
You might say, “I’m feeling a bit frustrated. Each time we get together, I feel like I can never really get a word in. I’d really appreciate it if we could start having more give and take in our conversations.”
Set firm boundaries.
If your friend is walking over you in conversation, they may be doing that in other ways, too. After you’ve brought up the matter of your friend dominating conversations, you can then set firm personal boundaries.
Think long and hard about how you would like to be treated by your friend. Then, verbalize these boundaries.
By speaking up about being steamrolled in conversation, you have already voiced one boundary with your friend.
Change the dynamic of the relationship.
If the current dynamic of your friendship isn’t working, change it. You can learn to accept your friend as they are. Or you can make some changes that are more tolerable for you, particularly if your friend isn’t respecting your boundaries.
Changes might include not hanging out with your friend as often, getting together as a group rather than one-on-one, or hanging out in certain contexts that limit talking (like the movies).