Oh So Quiet


I recently read an article by the Harvard Business Review, which highlighted the importance of being quiet. As an introvert, I completely support this cause and certainly wish others understood strategic listening over the need to fill silence. This, however, was not always logical to me.

The first time I realized the importance of asking others questions, as opposed to filling silence with my own stories, was during a team lunch in my first full time position. I nervously rambled, hoping to appear likable and entertaining, when my supervisor set an example of asking everyone at the table questions about themselves. This sounds like common sense, of course, but for an anxious new college graduate, it was revolutionary. I finally learned that I wasn’t responsible for entertaining the table or proving to everyone through stories that I am worth accepting. My brain began to shift to the needs and stories of others, and soon I found myself forming more meaningful relationships. I began to trust others to ask me about myself, and to reply with appropriate direct responses.

Over time, I’ve found that I tune out over-talkers. It becomes apparent that they have no interest in communicating with me, but rather to talk at me. As a listener, I’ve formed strategies for dealing with compulsive talkers. Hopefully you’ll find value in the tips below.

  1. Give them an opportunity to take a breath by commenting on what they are saying. Simply changing the subject while they’re talking will paint you as rude, but showing that you are listening and sharing what you’ve learned will likely give the talker an opportunity to feel understood. Sometimes, compulsive talkers are over sharing because they feel no one understands them.
  2. Follow your comment with an experience of your own. This will show the individual that others have value to add to the topic of interest.
  3. Loop another listener in by introducing a similar story you know they can share on the topic. Be sure to continue validating the experience of the original speaker, but set the example of allowing others to contribute.
  4. If the above suggestions fail, just listen. Sometimes people just need to be heard, and although the process may wear on your nerves, allowing someone who is rarely heard to feel understood may be life changing for them.

How do you cope with compulsive talkers? Share your stories, tips, and tricks below!

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