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5 Tips for Handling A Friend Who Talks Incessantly

Published: October 18, 2022 | By | 17 Replies Continue Reading

Have you ever sat down for lunch with a friend who talks incessantly—non-stop—without giving you the slightest chance to get a word in edgewise? You begin to feel like you turned on a TV set, helplessly trying to interact with a very boring re-run.

Your friend tells you every trite detail of what has transpired since the last time you were together. Then, without skipping a breath, reaches further back into the past and tells you a spate of stories you’ve already heard. Your friend’s speech is pressured and feels unrelenting.

If you like the person well-enough to want to remain friends with a friend who talks incessantly, here are five tips for making that lunch easier to digest:

1) Try interrupting periodically

Don’t feel shy about changing the topic, or directly asking your friend to slow down or stop for a minute so you can have a turn to speak. Given the situation, it isn’t rude or impolite.

If you’re lucky, you may startle the heck out of your friend, disrupt a pattern of one-way conversation, and seize an opportunity to speak and be heard.

2) Be cautious about inadvertently encouraging more of the same

When you’re totally bored, don’t feign interest by asking questions or giving the yakker other types of positive feedback, perhaps in the form of head nods or ah-ha’s.

If you look disinterested or glance at your watch, the talker may slow down.

3) Don’t label or call the person names

Yes, your friend is probably self-centered, narcissistic and insecure—but if you mention this, the person will only become more defensive, and it may exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.

Remember, you’re at lunch, not at therapy or a coaching session, and you have the right to expect reciprocity.

4) Identify “not being able to get a word in” as a problem for YOU

If you are truly a good friend, tell your friend bluntly—but kindly—that you are feeling frustrated when you get together. Tell your friend that you need and want more give and take in your conversations.

If you’re lucky and your friendship is solid, the person may have a glimmer of self-insight.

5) If you can’t change your friend’s behavior, you may have to change your relationship

If your friend continues to drone on each time you get together, which is the most likely outcome, you either have to accept the person as-is—or downgrade the relationship: The incessant talker may actually be more tolerable and entertaining in small doses; or else, the intensity of the person’s chatter might be diluted proportionately if you get together within a group of common friends instead of in a twosome.

If you do decide to call it quits, you’ll recoup time to nurture other friendships with people with whom you can have more meaningful and balanced conversations.

One more tip, don’t worry too much. The friend who talks incessantly will probably find someone else to listen. When someone talks too much, there’s always a new audience within easy reach—friends, family, or colleagues.

Previously on The Friendship Blog:

What successful strategies have you used to handle an incessant talker?

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Comments (17)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Today I rode a 40-minute car ride with an incessant talker. The others in the car put her up front with me. She needed a ride at the last minute, and it was overwhelming and over taxing. I felt so stressed afterward. I was disappointed because there was someone I wanted to catch up with in the car and we were not able to because I did not want the talker chiming in and turning the conversation to herself. I realized that people like this heighten my anxiety. (I have relatives who do this too.) I feel emotionally exhausted and will use these tips.
    Thank you

  2. Molly says:

    Hi, My 24 yo son will not stop talking I’m thinking rambiling is a kind version of him not shutting up. He’s being downright selfish and it’s so exhausting, he’s over bearing. When i speak up, which is usually a big mistake bc he then argues with what I’m saying, I end up shutting down. It’s driving me crazy. I’ve told him politely to stop talking so much but it doesn’t help and now I’m yelling for him to shut up, it’s horrible. No, he’s not on drugs or anything like that but he has lost friends bc of his distorted ego and it’s sad. I’m considering not living with him, it’s that bad. HELP!

    • Irene says:

      Hi Molly,

      If your son’s incessant talking is getting in the way of his relationships, it would be worthwhile to have his condition evaluated by a mental health professional. He is still quite young and this problem if left unaddressed could interfere with his personal and professional success.

      It’s probably something that he’s unable to control on his own.

      Best, Irene

      • Molly says:

        Hi Irene,

        Ideally my son going into therapy would be great however, he’s unwilling to go. He’s 24 so it’s not as though I can make him. I’m hoping for creative ideas to solve this.

        Thank you for your imput and I greatly appreciate any advice at this difficult time.

        • Irene says:

          It’s always tough to encourage someone to seek help when they are resistant to do so. Sometimes, timing can make a difference. For instance, if you raise the possibility of speaking to a counselor when you son is having a frustrating time socially (e.g., after losing a friend), he might be more willing to “hear” the suggestion. You might also want to speak to his physician to make sure nothing neurological is at play.

  3. Monologue says:

    Thank you for this post. Challenging topic indeed. Both my MIL and SIL have this “disorder.” I’ve tried making excuses for their incessant babbling; but I’ve come to terms with the fact that they lack social cues and etiquette. My MIL, who is getting older, tells me the same stories over and over and over. Now I just cut her off and say “oh, I’ve heard this one.” My SIL, God Bless her, provides a minute by minute scenario before getting to the point. A 2 minute story takes 30. Never asks how I am or how my family is, just rambles about her vacations, work woes, etc. The poor thing has very few friends, they all seem to vanish. She’s super high strung, and I think she has high anxiety. Sad because I’d like to have a relationship with both these people…but it’s “one way” and that doesn’t work.

  4. Iyamacat says:

    A solution to this could be the talking stick method. The talking stick can be anything, a highlighter, a spoon, a barbie doll. The person holding the talking stick does the talking – and gets to talk uninterrupted – no interrupting allowed! If the incessant talker tries to interrupt – say “you will get your turn, let us all speak so we can get input from one another” or something along those lines. This makes the conversation fair and everyone gets input and also helps the talker to learn to listen as well.

  5. Irene says:

    Thanks for sharing this important information. There are several no-fault neurobiological conditions that can cause excessive talking. It’s important for people to be aware of this because it may change how they respond.

    Warm regards, Irene

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for your information to help others with listening.

    I have severe ADHD which causes excessive talking. We are already embarrassed by this disorder. Many folks share that we could fix “it” if we wanted to.( Or we are selfish, self centered, narcissistic ,and insecure, or worse.

    Most “help” articles mention that this “bad habit” can be broken, if we would just do this or that.

    Only adding to the despair we feel that we are not good people, and it’s really our fault.

    My sister and I are laughed at and joked at every family gathering (the entire night).

    I take medicine that does help me. She can not due to her heart health, so she really has it more than I. She is the sweetest person you would ever meet. It hurts to hear people say, while rolling their eyes, here she comes.
    My sister is much older, and has a uncontrollable constant “grunting mumble” because of it too. She is only 50!!

    This is not a selfish habit, it’s a disability in many people.

    I found your steps, to be polite and kind in helping people as much as they can do alone.

    I just wondered if you have considered, telling people, under reasons people talk excessively is ADD or ADHD?

    We also get to look forward to loneliness, and being those elderly that mumble gibberish and cannot stop. It is sad and hurts us to be made fun of.

    Want to help and not hurt them?

    1. Give them a time ( Sure I have about 20 mins to catch up) of course you have 30 or an hour.

    2. Mention (Oops, let me check the time. Ok I have about 3 mins left, I really want to know, what did you end up doing?)

    3. When their 20-30 mins are up. say (I just remembered what I wanted to say, I am running late but…(go on for your 30 mins or so.

    4. If they interrupt you can keep talking and say “wait I can’t forget this again) if that doesn’t work you have to go and stop.

    5. Finally if you really love this person, say let’s brew coffee Saturday am and go for a walk and hear the rest of your details.

    This person probably knows, they have a problem. i have never left after talking someone to death, and didn’t think, I am so lucky she doesn’t hate me. I am blesses to have people that understand.

  7. Irene says:

    Wow, this has to be a very stressful situation—especially since you don’t work or have another escape valve.

    I don’t know how old your mom is but when an older person repeats something over and over, it may be a sign of an organic problem in the brain. You also say she is irrational at times. Given these symptoms, it would be great if you could have your mom evaluated—is there an adult day program in your area? Maybe they could help you find services and, perhaps, help you with respite so you have some time off. Your mom may need a chance to get away too.

    Check out this link and see if there are services available in your community: http://www.eldercare.gov/Eldercare.NET/Public/Index.aspx

    It might also be helpful to discuss this situation with your pastor to see if there is some way your religious community can help.

    It’s increasingly common for families to be living under the same roof but your situation sounds particularly stressful. I would strongly suggest that you seek some help to help ease your burden.

    Warm regards, Irene












  8. Anonymous says:

    I and my daughter live with my mother in a multigenerational household. It is the best way right now during these economic times and besides, my daughter has grown up here.
    Except we both need suggestions on how to live with my mother. She talks incessantly about the same things over and over to the point that when she opens her mouth, both my daughter and I can barely stand it-knowing we will have to just listen it out or she’ll get mad and say we don’t listen.
    I like to pretend that Im wearing a plastic bubble but now I can’t get my mother out of my head. One day Im going to wish to know what she would have said about this or that. I did tell her that I will listen if she can keep it down to a certain minimum. She got mad.
    Sigh…..Ive become a very quiet person because of her. Sometimes she is irrational too. She thinks her way is always the right way. Also, she was a professor for the military…I dont ever feel I could be enough or amount enough for her and her ideas of prestige. I, in turn, believe, that we need all kinds of people and as a Christian (not that Im a goody two shoe) the Lord is no respecter of persons. Its been really hard since I have been laid off from my job, and I haven’t been able to find a new one. So I went back to school, only to find out that that is really hard too and I have to retrain my brain to think again since my last job was so rote and boring.
    I just thank God that she is here yet at the same time, my daughter and I need to keep our sanity! I hope it is not too late because I already feel kinda out of my mind with it.

    • Susan says:

      I had the same kind of mom. Her continuous monologues drove everyone away from her. I still have a hard time concentrating because I learned at a very young age how to drown people out. Was it Narcisistic behavior or was it nervousness? Maybe if she talked she wouldn’t have to deal with feeling or empathizing. She is dead now and you know what? I don’t miss her like a daughter should miss her mother. I mourned losing her and the pain and guilt was unbearable, but I DO NOT miss her unending monologues. What is weird too is that I seem to be a magnet to people like her. Maybe I just never learned how to change the conversation, just quietly suffer through the ranting. When she divorced my father I envied him-he made it out alive.

  9. Crayon Wrangler says:

    I loved this post! Not only was it a great list post, but offered wonderfully insightful and thought provoking content!

    I have several friends who have this role in the relationship, but then again….I am not much of a talker; some of this I will be using in our next get-together.

  10. Irene says:

    I’m so glad it was thought-provoking!

    Just wanted to say that your web design is a knock-out!




  11. Vincent says:

    I find that dealing with incessant talkers can be a drain at times. Though I teach people to be interested in chatting with others and asking questions, eventually you’re right this can cause people to become to fake.

    I find that it helps to limit the number of interactions with friends. For example if you find that they are talking too much and you hang out with them once a week, then it might be time to just see them only once a month.

    This way the person can talk, and you also have a lot to contribute as well.

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