Lesson 2 of 7 - learn to communicate effectively

Response Options to
 Non-stop Talking

You don't have to endure it!

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW

Member NSRC Expert's Council

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/cx/apps/monolog.htm

Updated  12-16-2014

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      This is one of a series of brief articles on how to respond effectively to annoying social behavior. An effective response occurs when you get your  primary needs met well enough, and both people feel heard and respected enough.

      This article offers useful responses to someone who tends to talk without stopping. It assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 and 2

  • how to give effective feedback to someone

  • overviews of effective assertion and empathic listening skills.

Perspective

      Is there someone in your life who often talks "non-stop"? When they do, how do you feel?

Irritated?

Impatient?

Ambivalent?

Bored?

Critical?

Resigned?

ignored?

Amused?

Numb?

Something else?

How do you normally respond - Endure (repress your needs)? Tune out? Interrupt? Hint? Avoid conflict? Leave? Pretend interest? Joke? Fidget? Complain? Blame? Analyze?

      Your responses usually indicate what you need with a non-stop talker - for example...

  • to be included and respected;

  • to respect yourself (honor your integrity);

  • to avoid confrontation or conflict;

  • to preserve or improve your relationship;

  • to be "polite," "considerate," and not "hurt the person's feelings;" 

  • to attend to something else ("not waste time");

  • to have a dialog, not a monolog;

  • to change the subject if you're bored or disinterested;

  • to inform the person what they're doing, and how it affects you;

  • to problem-solve (meet your and their needs well enough); and/or...

  • something else.

      Notice that you may have several needs at once, which may conflict and paralyze you, and/or cause frustration and anxiety. When this is true, it often means a false self controls you locally. To best fill your several needs, you need your true Self to guide you.

  Why do people monolog?

      Though every person and situation is unique, they may need to...

avoid an uncomfortable dialog; or...

keep control of the situation (avoid discomfort); or...

be understood and validated on a topic; or to...

release "nervous energy;" or...

pass the time safely; or to...

tell an important story (again, as in grieving); or need...

something else.

      When you're with someone who fills needs like these by monologing (keeping a one-person awareness bubble), consider your...

Response Options

  • Use awareness to notice (a) the other person's monologing, (b) how you feel, and (c) what you need in this situation (above);

  • As needed, mentally review these basics until they become automatic;

  • Watch for a chance to interrupt the other person, and say one or more of these:

"(Name), excuse me. Can I give you some personal feedback now?" If s/he says "No" or "OK, But first let me ______ ;" choose the right time to demand:

"I need you to stop (talking) and listen to me now." Repeat this until s/he stops.

"When you talk non-stop, I tune you out."

"You've been talking nonstop for ____ minutes. Are you aware of that?"

"When you talk on and on and don't seek any response from me, I feel ignored, disrespected, and frustrated."

"Can you sum up what you need me to know here?" (If s/he does, offer a hearing check to demonstrate you've heard the person clearly.

"(Name), what do you need from me right now?"  If s/he ignores or discounts you, try...

"(Name), who's needs are more important to you now - yours or mine?" The best answer is "Both of ours."

"Here's what I need from you right now:  __________, _________, and ________."

"(Name), I'm really not interested in all that detail."

Use the theme of these examples (brevity, sincerity, directness, and respect) to shape your own responses to fit the situation.

Finally...

      People governed by a false self may "resist" responses like these. They may ignore you, complain, deny, excuse, explain, get sarcastic, blame, whine, go silent, etc. Expect this normal reaction, and affirm it with respectful empathic listening. Then calmly repeat your original response with steady eye contact. Repeat this sequence until you get your needs met well enough or your needs change.


      Back away from these details, and compare these examples to the way you're used to responding to distractions. Are you motivated to try these options and see what happens?

Recap

      This is one of a series of brief articles suggesting effective ways to respond to common social behaviors. This article offers (a) perspective on why people talk non-stop (monolog), and (b) illustrates ways to respond effectively to them. The ways are based on...

  • keeping your true Self in charge,

  • maintaining a mutual-respect attitude,

  • clarity on your feelings, needs, and mutual rights, and...

  • fluency in the relationship skills of awareness, assertion, and empathic listening.

+ + +

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

        Also see these response-options with insensitive and egotistical people.

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