• Keeping Friends

When you can’t get a word in edgewise

Published: November 6, 2015 | By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
A reader asks what she can say to a friend who never lets her get a word in edgewise.



I have a life-long friend. We grew up together. We have had are fall-outs and fall-ins. Sometimes years have gone by. We are now spending time again. I am proud we have grown and healed. BUT – there is a behavior that I love and I hate. I love her energy and spunk, so when she starts talking a mile a minute it can be fun, like listening to a radio show.

Because I am a writer/performer, I also can’t help but observe people. But the other day when we went for a hike, when I got home I felt tired and empty—as if I had a lump in my throat. I realized that she does ALL the talking! I think part of my issue is I have always been such a great listener, but this is starting to feel like another greedy friendship. Help!

Sometimes I also feel it doesn’t matter if it’s me there or she just needs a body to listen to run on sentences that feel 100 miles long. I have come a long way in therapy, communication. Heck, I’m even a certified life coach (was), I don’t have the words to tell her.

Thanks, Mindy


Hi Mindy,

It sounds like your friend is an incessant talker. It may be hard for her to pause for a breath because she feels so pressured to speak; she may not even be aware of how she dominates conversation.

When you’re with someone like that, it’s not surprising that you can’t get a word in edgewise. Since you find this so frustrating and fatiguing but still value this relationship, I think you do need to find some way to tell her.

When you’re together, not on a hike, why don’t you sit down with her and say something like this:

“I love that we are spending more time together. One of the nice things about you is how spunky and entertaining you are but sometimes, probably because I’m quieter than you, I have a hard time getting involved in the conversation. Do you think we can try to make our conversations more give-and-take?”

This would make your friend more aware of the problem without making her feel as if you are criticizing her.

If she’s this way all the time with everyone and has no control over it, another possibility would be to dilute the relationships. Either see her in small doses—not as often as you do and for not as long periods—or try to see her as part of a group.

Be sure to read my previous post: 5 Tips for Handling an Incessant Talker.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (9)

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  1. Maddie says:

    Sometimes I like having coffee with my motor mouth friend as I can just sit there and relax and listen to her bigger than life stories, lol. She’s not one I ever get serious with.

  2. Lauren M says:

    This certainly is a problem, and I love the suggestions that Irene made with the link to the incessant talker page, and Irene’s suggestion for a sit-down talk with your long term friend. That sounds like a great idea in your case, especially as she is such a long-term friend. It will be well worth it, and I think that it will work well.

    I also like what Lottie said about holding your hand up and saying, Stop, I want to talk too, while smiling and laughing in a friendly way. This would also be good for the times after you have had the chat that Irene has suggested.

    Hopefully, conversations will be more balanced soon, and an old friendship will be saved and nurtured.

    • Victoria says:

      I like Lottie’s suggestion too. Humor is good especially if it works.

      “hold your hand up and say, Stop, I want to talk too, while smiling and laughing in a friendly way.”

      Also it is the listeners who end up doing all the work or compromising because most talkers don’t realize there is a problem until told and then some still don’t get it. *:)

  3. lottie says:

    Hi Mindy,

    An old friend of mine does the same thing.

    They do not pause at the end of a sentence but half way through into their next sentence without any interruptions and so on.

    I wouldn’t have a quiet chat with your friend,to me that is too serious.

    My suggestion is to hold your hand up and say STOP,then laugh adding that you want to speak.Hopefully she will apologise and laugh back. Make it funny telling her that in future you will hold your hand up like at school if you want to speak.No doubt she is a poor listener,because she will be too busy thinking of what she is saying next !!! Good luck.Lottie

  4. Clara B says:

    ROFL! I do think and believe that this is not just a problem with you or a couple of others in the comments. It is a widespread epidemic. Those “incessant talkers” just need someone naive and good to listen to their crap – just goes to show their selfish & highly self-centered and narcissistic quality. They do not want to listen to others. That IS the problem. And when a bunch of these talkers get together, that is the place you need to RUN AWAY from. Never be among such groups and individuals. They will drain your enthusiasm and make you weaker. It is hard to find someone like yourself but keep at it – it might happen, who knows.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Another great topic here. I’ve been struggling with this problem as well, and I seem to be noticing it more in recent years. It’s partly a personality issue but I can’t help but wonder if social media sites, like Facebook, contribute to the problem. In other words, everyone is having “one-sided” conversations online, talking “at” each other instead of talking with each other. People are getting used to this way of communicating. For instance, a couple of my friends post things on FB several times a day, round the clock, and when I’m with them in person, they keep talking about themselves nonstop, a monologue, as if they can’t help it.

    It’s annoying, it’s selfish, it’s frustrating. Just as Irene suggested, I prefer to keep nonstop talkers at arm’s length, or see them less often, or in groups. For me, it would be very brave to do what Irene suggests — to have a conversation with the nonstop talker about changing her ways and becoming a better listener. However, if you have a very close relationship with a friend like that, maybe it would be worth the risk.

    • Victoria says:

      Hi Elizabeth: *:) I can say, from decades of experience, that this type of behavior is much older than Facebook or even home computers. Some people just don’t seem to realize that conversation is a two way street. They are so busy talking that they never stop to listen or hear if someone else has something to contribute to what should be a conversation between two people rather than a narration from one to another. Some talkers even get angry when a listener managers to spit out a sentence as they perceive it as the listener talking over them, because they were probably still talking and hadn’t meant to pause long enough for someone else to speak. Oddly, the talker doesn’t realize the conversation has been a narration and they can’t perceive that the listener has been politely chocking on the first word of a dozen or more sentences they started to say, because they don’t want to be rude and talk over the talker. lol. Though, sometimes I want to say “Grr, let me talk too, please.” lol.

  6. Tara says:

    Hi Mindy,
    I am very much like this in my friendships and have one friend who has a lot of energy and talks a lot. I can relate to loving and hating it. I wish often that instead of the listeners looking for ways to manage such situations there were more articles on how talkers can connect better with people. It seems like it is the listeners that need to adjust a lot more often than is necessary in friendships. Plus, when being a good listener involves really focusing on the other person and not putting together ‘what you will say next’ so when there is an actual pause, I find it difficult to jump in and then the silence gets filled up by the talker.

    I think Irene has some good points and the article has some good techniques. I was also curious how to manage this and I am in the process of coming up with a way (finding my words too) to address this face to face with some of my friendships where it isn’t a mutual exchange of feeling heard. I think I will need to do this to assess if it is only a self-awareness issue or if it is something deeper.

    I wish you luck in dealing with this.

    Kind regards,

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