The Career Within You

Finding the perfect job for your personality

Nine Ways to Cope with Talkaholics

Will a compulsive talker be at YOUR holiday party?

Talkaholic
Drawing by Elizabeth Wagele
Elizabeth Wagele

Consider how much time you spend enduring people who can't put on the breaks once they start talking instead of having a conversation with you? Do you silently simmer? Walk away? Slam your fist on the table? Almost nobody takes on the talkaholic directly.

What is the talkaholic's motivation? Is it narcissism, genes, never having gotten enough attention, anxiety - fear of silence? One talkaholic was aware enough to tell me, "I'm too scared to shut up." Sometimes not being able to stop talking is temporary - from momentary stress; that's different.

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Julius is talking non-stop and the others in the room feel they're being held hostage by this jabber box. Let's see what one example of each Enneagram type might do, if anything:

1. The Perfectionist. I can imagine a highly principled Perfectionist type remaining dignified while confronting the situation. He tries to be assertive but calm and takes charge by bringing up a new subject and including everyone else in the room.

2. The Helper. I envisage an empathic Helper wanting a win-win outcome. She does a takeover by enthusiasm, abruptly but charmingly telling a story. She gets everyone's attention focused on her by using a great deal of eye contact. Her goal is to keep the energy up and prevent another takeover by the "talker."

3. The Achiever. Since Achievers like to work, I imagine this one finessing himself into a tiny opening with a story or a demonstration of his own work. He controls with his manner of speech, taking few breaks to breathe, and being entertaining, grabbing everyone's attention away from the talkaholic.

4. The Romantic. The Romantic wing in me (since I'm a 5-Observer) responds with some anger for the talkaholic, my shadow, getting all this attention. I try to call upon my One-Perfectionist arrow to help me hijack the conversation in a classy yet fair way.

5. The Observer. As an Observer type, I've been wanting to share my information and not getting a chance. So hearing the talkaholic hold forth has been irritating me. I might say something like, "Can we move to another subject now?"

6. The Questioner. The Questioner I'm thinking of jumps into the conversation with something clever or shocking. A new controversial subject can change the mood and inspire a lively discussion.

7. The Adventurer. A lot of Adventurers wouldn't have the patience to sit around being bored by a talker. They might leave, try to tell a story of their own, like the Helper did, or start a parallel conversation with one or two people.

8. The Asserter. An Asserter friend's solution for a talkaholic was to "show the person to the door!" Asserter Richard Holbrooke's friends said he dominated 45 minutes of every hour when with others. He was a force for good but was also "controlling."


9. Peace Seeker. This type would want to keep everyone happy and would likely be patient with a talkaholic. Perhaps she'd introduce food or another distraction.

The trouble with these methods is that they're temporary. Talkaholics spring right back into holding forth at the first opportunity. Surely there are success stories of over-talkers who have gotten over the habit, however.

Meanwhile, do YOU have a constructive way of creating a conversation when someone is dead-set on delivering a boring monologue?

PS Some people think introverts are neurotic. Find out the truth in "The Happy Introvert."

 

Elizabeth Wagele is the co-author with Ingrid Stabb of The Career Within You: How to Find the Perfect Job for Your Personality.

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