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How to Tell if You Talk Too Much

Two Methods:Determining whether you talk excessivelyTalking less, listening more

Everyone likes to be heard. There's nothing wrong with wanting people to know your opinions, or how you feel. However, expressing yourself can be problematic when it becomes excessive, when it silences or annoys others, or when it embarrasses you.

A large part of being a good friend or conversationalist is being able to listen. If you're worried that this art of conversation has bypassed you completely, here are some indicators and suggestions for what to do. Just see Step 1 to get started.

Method 1
Determining whether you talk excessively

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    Assess your usual conversations. Say that you just met your friend for lunch and you're worried that you may have dominated the conversation ... again. Replay the lunch date in your head, resisting the urge to defend yourself. This will help you to see clearly whether or not you talk a lot in comparison to other people. Ask yourself some pointed questions, like:
    • "Who did most of the talking?"
    • "Did we talk more about me or about my friend?"
    • "How often did I interrupt my friend?"
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    Don't limit these "replay sessions" to your social circle. Think about the way you talk to everyone, including — but not limited to — your boss, co-workers, mother, and the restaurant staff.
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    Assess the way you are most likely to begin a conversation. Do you open the conversation by jumping in with a funny story of your life and your observations without being asked? Or are you likely to ask someone a question and let them tell you a story, tell you about their life and their observations? Conversation is a balance between both participants, and although you should take Sheryl Sandberg's advice and lean in, you hog the limelight when you focus too much on yourself.
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    Pay attention to the body language of others. Do people sometimes roll their eyes when you start to talk, or maybe tap their foot impatiently? Do people begin to phase out, looking glazed or distracted when you begin to elaborate on something? Do people simply nod their head and throw out irrelevant "Yeahs" and "Uh-huhs" without wanting you to elaborate any further? Or worse, do people sometimes ignore you completely when you get on a verbal roll, turn the other way and start a conversation with the next person? An ultimate sign is a very simple one — the other person may say something as simple as "you talk too much" and move away. All of these provide some good indicators of whether you're boring or frustrating people by talking too much. If signs like these are consistent factors in your conversations, you're talking too much.
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    Keep count of all the times you accidentally say more than you mean to say (also known as TMI, or too much information). Do you find yourself often giving away bits of information you don't mean to? A friend's confidence, or your own (sometimes embarrassing) problems? Or maybe you let slip rude or hurtful opinions about other people. Note how often this occurs in day-to-day conversations.
    • If it helps, keep a small notebook and mark in the times that you feel you've slipped up in this way. It'll help you to gauge how much this is happening.

Method 2
Talking less, listening more

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    Fix the problem. Once you've finished your self-analysis and decided that you do talk too much and want to do something about it, it's time to get serious about curtailing the talk. Don't think "I know, but I can't change." If you can learn how to do other complex things in your life (musical instrument, computer games, cooking, gardening, etc.), then you can learn about this too. This section provides some solutions.
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    Make a conscious effort to listen more and talk less. Listening shows you are interested in the other person and what they have to say. People will be flattered by a good listener, because secretly, everyone loves to talk about themselves. There is no topic that interests them more than themselves. Remember, if you allow them to talk (ask open-ended questions, don't interrupt, stay in sync with their body language and make eye contact), and ask them lots of follow-up questions, they'll think you're a brilliant conversationalist without you needing to say much. Some people seem to think that by talking the most, they must be the best conversationalist. By the same token, if a dinner guest takes more than half of the food on the table offered for a group, would you consider them a great guest? Hardly — you're more likely to see them as being rude, selfish and possessing a complete lack of social skills.
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    Don't fill all the dead air. This is especially true in a group setting. Pauses are sometimes another person's thinking time; they are also moments for imparting gravity or emphasis onto what has already been said. Some people like to take a moment to think and compose their answer carefully. Don't feel you need to jump in at every pause; doing so swallows them up and throws them off their answer. If you hog all the gaps, you'll be talking for more than your fair share, and others will feel that you are interrupting them. Allow 5 seconds, look around, and if nobody seems to want to speak, ask a question instead of inserting opinions or statements. Most of all, don't jump in with a "funny" story; rather, rely on asking people about themselves.
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    Don't give all the history or trivia on a subject that you are currently discussing with someone. That can begin to feel like a college lecture to the other person. Instead give a brief summary or answer their direct question, and then wait to see if the other person really wants you to continue with more information. If they do, they will ask you more questions. If they don't, they may give you a general "uh-huh" or a non-verbal clue that that's enough info and they're not interested.
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    Remember a good conversation is like a back-and-forth rally. If someone asks you a question (for example, "How was your holiday?"), after you have given your reply about your great trip and experience, be brief and to the point. Then, return the favor by asking a question back (for example "How about you, are you planning to go on any trips this year?" or "Enough about me, how was your week? How's the family?")
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    Don't name drop in a conversation. If someone you're talking to won't know that "Mike" is your neighbor, make sure you preface your comment with "My neighbor Mike" or follow-up in the next sentence with your explanation. Name dropping frustrates the listener; it either makes them feel out-of-the-loop or ignorant, or that you are passively showing off.
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    Slow down. This cannot be over-emphasized; the amount of conversationalists behaving like bulls at a gate is growing, possibly fed by the fast technological world we're now immersed in. Sometimes people simply get excited and begin an overwhelming monologue. They're so into what they have to say, they forget that you need two people to hold a conversation. This is selfish. Sometimes all it takes is a quick mental note to calm down.
    • Take a deep breath and collect yourself before breaking your oh-so-amazing news to your friends.
    • In essence, think before you speak. Truthfully, your special story will have more impact if you take time to think about what you're going to say and how you're going to say it.
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    If you learn nothing else, at least learn to stop interrupting people. In today's fast-paced world, many of us have been guilty of interrupting others, either to save ourselves time, or in the guise of saving them time. Too many of us have been desensitized to this egotistical way of carrying on a conversation. It's now commonplace to find yourself rudely and callously cut off from finishing your sentences, only to find one's fellow conversationalist interjecting with their own personal stories, thoughts, or commentaries, rambling on and on incessantly. In effect, it's a practice which basically states "I don't find you interesting enough, and so I'm just going to say what I want to say because I assume I am of greater interest." This disregards the most basic rule of human interaction, namely that of respect. So the next time you are in a conversation, no matter what it is about, listen above all else. Personal input is a wonderful way to express oneself, but never at the expense of the other person's feelings. So go for it, this is a wonderful way to gain the revered honor of becoming a "good listener."
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    Consider the cause/effect. Ask yourself why you're so chatty. Do you seldom have an opportunity to be heard? Were you ignored or stifled as a child? Do you feel inadequate? Are you lonely because you're holed up all day? Too much caffeine giving you the mile-a-minute jitters? Are you often pressed for time and have adapted by increasing your rate of speech? The effect that fast- and long-winded talkers tend to have is one of draining the other party, overwhelming and exhausting them until they can find a polite-enough exit strategy. When you catch yourself talking too much, try to take a moment to check in with yourself; take a deep breath and remind yourself that you can "reset" your speaking habits if you slow down and work at it.
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    Learn to express yourself well in an entertaining manner. This will help in itself. If you enjoy telling stories, learning to tell them well means staying on topic, making them entertaining, pacing them well and keeping listeners' interest.
    • Conciseness is one important key. If you can tell it in fewer words you're more likely to get a laugh or move your listener.
    • Rehearse some of your better stories. Take drama classes. Give yourself the attention you crave by participating in talent shows and open mic events. If you're sufficiently entertaining, people mind it less that you talk too much and you'll attract shy people who would prefer to let someone else dominate the conversation.


  • When first greeting someone (your companion at the end of the day, a friend on the weekend, a date), make sure you do the usual "how are you, how was your day" back and forth with them until the conversation settles on a subject. Don't just answer their "how are you" first and go off on your stories without acknowledging them first with a return "fine, how are you." That, in a way, is a verbal "hug" and reassures the other person that you are genuinely glad to be talking to them. There will be plenty of time for your stories; you don't have to lead with them at the outset.
  • If you find yourself talking too much, do not be afraid to simply stop and say, "Oops, I'm sorry. I'm talking too much. What were you saying about (reference something they mentioned, or tried to mention)?" Being honest about your tendency engenders empathy from others and shows you are aware.
  • Breaking yourself off bad habits or poor manners takes time. Don't get discouraged. It's wise to ask a close friend for support. It can't hurt to have a coach.
  • Make a conscious effort to be an active listener by asking relevant and/or follow-up questions from your companions more often.
  • Learn to be comfortable with dead air. Count to 5 after the other person finishes talking. Work up to a count of 10. But don't forget to nod, say, "uh-huh", "hmm", or "really?". This will help you feel less awkward with the pause and let the other person know you are interested in what they have just said and it gives them a chance to follow-up their sentence without a perceived interruption.
  • During a meal, pay attention to your companions' plates. If the people at your table are eating at a normal rate yet your plate still has much more food on it than theirs and you've been talking, it is time to talk less.
  • Don't be afraid to apologize if someone informs you either openly or subtly that you're talking too much. Indeed, it's a great chance to practice breaking the habit by quieting down and listening instead.
  • Enlist a confidante to give a subtle and prearranged signal, when you begin to regress to old habits. The real time intervention will help with course correction.
  • If you are a woman, pay attention to who says you talk too much. If you don't get this complaint from any female friends and family members but men always complain that you talk too much, you may be falling into the good habit of expecting equal time with men. Same-sex conversations usually fall around 50-50 between participants unless someone's shy or talks too much — the time to start throttling back is when you're pushing for 2/3 or more. However, men and women both get socialized that in cross-gender conversations, men expect to be listened to 2/3 of the time and women make them uncomfortable if they go over 1/3 of the total lines said. You can check this with transcripts and decide what if anything to do — change your behavior or confront male friends and family with the truth asking them to modify theirs.


  • Don't think you have to stop talking completely, as if it's some kind of insane reversal of your fortunes. Talking is the most important and logical form of interaction between human beings, and a well paced conversationalist is the good mark of an engaging "social butterfly". Simply remember that it's about talking less and giving less airtime to your life stories and trivia, acknowledging that everyone wants their turn in a conversation. Share the airspace and you'll be fine. Don't go over 2/3 of the dialogue unless you are literally giving a lecture; that will make anyone uncomfortable.

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