Working with Loud Mouths

How to Manage a Motor-Mouth at Your Meeting or Party

Whether you meet them at an upcoming holiday party or have them dominating your meetings, incessant talkers present a challenge. While you do want them to have opportunity to tell their story or present their ideas, these people need to add their “two cents” to everyone’s comments and to top everyone’s story.

They rarely offer their ideas briefly. Instead, they ramble, repeat themselves, and regurgitate what others have already said.

Other than saying what you feel (“Enough already!” “Cut to the chase!” Shut up!”), here are a few more courteous, yet effective, tactics to manage the dominator:

Respond With Silence

Incessant talkers interpret any verbal affirmation such as “Hmmm,” “Good,” “Interesting,” or “Really?” as an invitation to keep elaborating or explaining. Instead of a verbal response, give them total silence.

Break Eye Contact

As they ramble on, break eye contact. If they still don’t wind down, turn your entire face away and divert attention to someone else and something else. They will understand that they’ve lost your attention, and you’ll notice them automatically began to speak faster and with more energy and inflection trying to regain your interest. Don’t reward them until they stop. (The reason many talkers ramble on is they interpret continued eye contact as continued interest.)

Play Traffic Cop

Visualize for a moment how a police officer directs traffic at an interaction with a nonworking signal light or at the scene of an accident. A raised hand says, “Stop.” No words necessary.  Likewise, you can often stop an interrupter by simply raising your hand toward them. Your raised hand says, “Stop. You’re interfering. Susan wasn’t finishing speaking.” Or: “Don’t butt in here. I’m not finished making my point.”

Interrupt With a Closed Question

When the motor-mouth is engaged in a long ramble, listen long enough to form a short-answer question about what they’re saying. Interrupt their ramble with this question. (This breaks their train of thought.) When they pause to answer your question, you have the floor back and can pivot to another topic, hand off to another person, or exit from the conversation.

Steal the Ball and Pass Off to Others

If you’re formally facilitating a group discussion or even informally seated around a table with friends or family, you can break in with comments like this: “Frank, it sounds like you had a great vacation. I’d like to hear from Caitlin about where she and Michael vacationed this year?” Or: “Carlos, before you go on with other marketing ideas you implemented in your division this past year, I want to hear from some of the other division leaders. Darren, how about you?”

Use the Clock as Your Ally

Either stop or interrupt the rambler with any of these “reasons”: “Oliver, I need to stop you. Otherwise, we’re not going to be able to get through our agenda.” “Vivian, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m going to have to step away now to catch Omar before he leaves. I see him about to walk out the door.”  “Dominique, before you tell us all about what happened last year, let me ask for a show of hands from the group to see how many think this would be the best use of our limited time?”


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