Off the Couch

Thoughts about the therapeutic process, and the dynamics of client-therapist interactions.

What Makes People Talk Too Much?

One day recently Jean*, a young professional woman, started her session with a rant about one of her co-workers. “The man does not stop talking,” she said. “Today he asked me how my weekend went, and before I could utter a word he started telling me about everything he had done.” Read More

That 1% and A RANT

These are great tips that would work on pretty much everyone. Except that 1% which includes my mother in law.

I've been married to my husband for 3 years and his mom will NEVER stop talking. She goes on and on about nothing.
She has no friends just people she thinks she's helping, like family members she treats as semi- patients. Everyday, She talks about her family and says their sick and "ill". She will go to one persons house to talk about this person,vice versa. You can understand why everyone would get tired of her.

But, I've noticed that she will only talk about herself in two ways. 1.)Victimizing herself or 2.)Making herself sound like god.
It's the weirdest thing. She can never be wrong. My husband and His family members have these three options - 1.) Argue Back and Walk Away 2.) Ignore everything she says and walk away 3.) Agree and Walk Away, while shes talking. ( It's Rude, I know =[ )

People talk to escape their own inner demons. It's like a person with an Addiction. You can do drugs for only temporary relief but ultimately the problem is still there. Until they can see it and realize they need help. It's best to walk away.

Not another mother-in-law

Not another mother-in-law rant again!

Joke aside, it is very embarrassing to have a parent who thinks rest of the folk are sick, but he/she is a naive, vulnerable individual who in reality,unbeknownst to him/her, spends life piling up one mess over the other.

Besides escaping demons, there may be insecurities , unquenchable
desires that may be at play. One would hope that they would see it one day and realize. That never probably happens without intervention. If it does happen, there may be undesirable depression that the parent will go at their old age. It is best to let them reflect one event at a time and look at a long term management (somewhere between steps 2 and 3).

Wish it was as simple as walking away, but I totally understand.

Good points

Thanks for contributing these ideas. I agree with you -- it is a complex situation -- but sometimes walking away is all a person can do!
Best,
Diane

the 1%

It is so hard when someone is so convinced that she's a victim that she victimizes everyone else. Sounds like you and your husband have tried everything you can. Walking away seems like a reasonable solution -- and it doesn't sound as rude as some other things you might have done instead. It sounds like you're husband is struggling with the same issues, though, so at least you're on the same side. Good luck!

My 88 year old Mother, talks constantly.She goes on and on.

Is there a name for the diagnosis,for the problem that someone might have regarding a persons ability to call up things from the past when they were a little girl ? When they get going on a thread from the past,it seems like your on a train going downhill,they just keep talking and talking.The only time they shut up is if they go to sleep.

Mother-in-law

You say your mother-in-law has no friends. Did you ever think she talks so much and tries to help because she is trying to make friends? Maybe the things that drive people away are the things she is using in trying to get them to come close.

Perhaps MIL lacks the capacity for personal insight?

If MIL repeatedly engages in non-stop talking and the unvarying result is to drive people away from her, then why doesn't MIL understand that non-stop talking AT people is NOT how you make friends?

Why doesn't she get this?

If something clearly isn't working, then you have to try other things until you find something that DOES work; repeatedly engaging in any behavior that is *consistently* counterproductive is kind of, well... insane.

-Annie

I feel the agony of this all

I feel the agony of this all the time dealing with my mum, which is why I've googled it to see if there are any good tips on dealing with it. I can handle the fact that she starts talking as soon as I say hello and an hour later I haven't said a word - no problem, but then she'll loop back to the same conversation we had the last time we talked and if I say, "We just talked about that mum" she'll start screaming at me. It's so hard to sit and listen to the never ending story that she's just told me last week but to try to get out of it just means more drama. Why can't she see what she's like?!?!?

Same Here!

I feel like you just described my mom and me!!!! And if you try and escape she explodes with anger, saying that "we never talk" or "you need hear this", or with clenched teeth "Let me FINISH! i was almost done, now that you have interrupted me I have to remember what i was just saying!" and this will go on for hours! The longest I have had to listen to her endless talking is about 5 hours, towards the end the two of us were screaming at each other during which I broke down crying begging her to just stop talking!!! She left me alone for about an hour then came back and started lecturing me about how i need to get my "anger issues under control"!! Ugh the struggle!!!

Constant non stop talking

I can't believe I've found this page and thank you everyone for your comments and tips. My brother, 62yrs, talks non stop and is wearing everyone out. I was reading when he came into the room and I drew his attention to my book but he never so much as acknowledge what I was doing never mind say 'sorry'. My sister-in-law is about to have a nervous breakdown as besides his constant tirade she has leukemia and suffered complications with a knee replacement op. When they visit he commandeers my 94yrs old father and they 'disappear' into the garden for hours and my father is exhausted. My brother tells the same stories over and over again and so loudly in restaurants to the extent people turn around to look and shush him! In addition he is very opinionated and has the strangest pre-conceived ideas. NOW I find my niece, his daughter, has inherited the same problem and is driving her two young daughters into depression. How do you tell them, when you can get a word in, they need help and are driving everyone mad? Again thank you for your comments.

When the non-stop talking behavior becomes abusive

This is just my opinion, but if a non-stop-talker is being abusive to someone who is too frail or too powerless to manage their own well-being, such as you describe with your very elderly 94-year-old father, then I would think its time to intervene.

Same with your niece; if her non-stop-talking behavior is abusive to her children to the point where its making them clinically depressed (it is particularly abusive IF their monologuing mother is aiming a constant stream of criticism at the kids) then its time to intervene.

From my point of view, the main issue here is that the targets of the non-stop talkers are reluctant to establish clear, firm boundaries, particularly with a loved one or a friend. The "designated listener" does not wish to hurt the feelings of the monologuer; or fears triggering the monologuer's wrath. My response is, well, then that's your choice. You are an adult; adults are responsible for establishing their own personal boundaries and looking after their own welfare (such as choosing whether to tolerate abusive behaviors or not.)

HOWEVER if a monologuer has crossed the line and is engaging in a form of domineering behavior, aka bullying a weaker party, then IMO its time to go "Mother Bear", rear up on your hind legs and ESTABLISH FIRM BOUNDARIES with the monologuer, even if it feels scary to you to do that; even if being just calmly and politely assertive makes you writhe with discomfort... do it anyway.

I know its rude, but...

It is amazing that these "monologuers" can just go on... and on... and on... without pausing, seemingly, even for a breath! Its so incredibly rude! Thank goodness they don't seem to crop up that often.

I needed to ask one of these individuals a question but since she gave me NO opportunity to do so after literally five minutes of nonstop monologuing, I just turned to her date and spoke to him (which meant I was talking over her) and I asked him to ask her my question when she had time to respond, at which point she interrupted her monologue and answered my question. Then she started up again. I just smiled politely, said "Thanks!", and left.

My own opinion is that probably a lot of the people who habitually monologue have some kind of personality disorder or other, probably narcissistic pd. It demonstrates a profound lack of empathy for the feelings of other people combined with total self-absorption RE their own needs and feelings. ("ME, ME, ME! Its ALWAYS all about ME!!")

Seems like that, anyway.

MIL

I cannot BELIEVE this woman had a DATE! How handy it would be if anyone else were ever around. MY MIL is quite silent when we have a group. I suppose she can't tell when it's her turn.....I now have seven people on my list (at least right now) who talk non-stop. When it's on the phone, I sometimes take a little nap until they realize they are getting no response. A dead battery on my phone can help, too. Caller ID is the best defense. The in- person ones I know are all very bright and artistic. Three are over the top religious. All are alone, except one, who only recently married for the first time. One has never married. The rest are divorced, and two have divorced more than once.

Yes, we are all wired differently, but has anyone learned how to help these people? Their self-images do not seem to match up to the reality of almost no one wanting to be around them. My MIL CAN be quiet and polite with new people, so it tells me she CAN if motivated. However, even from afar she appears to judging.

MIL

I cannot BELIEVE this woman had a DATE! How handy it would be if anyone else were ever around. MY MIL is quite silent when we have a group. I suppose she can't tell when it's her turn.....I now have seven people on my list (at least right now) who talk non-stop. When it's on the phone, I sometimes take a little nap until they realize they are getting no response. A dead battery on my phone can help, too. Caller ID is the best defense. The in- person ones I know are all very bright and artistic. Three are over the top religious. All are alone, except one, who only recently married for the first time. One has never married. The rest are divorced, and two have divorced more than once.

Yes, we are all wired differently, but has anyone learned how to help these people? Their self-images do not seem to match up to the reality of almost no one wanting to be around them. My MIL CAN be quiet and polite with new people, so it tells me she CAN if motivated. However, even from afar she appears to judging.

Great technique!!!

Babs, I laughed when I read your way of dealing with this woman! Thanks for the chuckle!! I think you're right that some of non-stop talkers are narcissistic, but there are other reasons people don't stop to let someone else talk -- anxiety about being corrected, fear of allowing anyone to get close, and shame about not being able to listen are just some of the reasons other than the ones I talked about in the blog. But that said, even understanding the problem doesn't always make them easy to be around.
Best,
Diane

Mom talks way toooooo much

My mom talks about everything under the sun, if u ask her what she is cooking today she will have to go back to about 2 weeks ago to tell u what she is cooking today,if she says she want to ask a question it ends up about an hour or sometimes more it is hard to live with after all i cant tell her to shut up.
I am dieing here, sometimes i just want to hide a hole or go the other side of the planet.

Its OK to be politely assertive, though

We are trained from the cradle to obey and defer to our parents and respect them, but when we reach adulthood, if your parent consistently treats you disrespectfully, with no consideration for your time, your needs or your feelings, its OK to politely but firmly set boundaries with your mother or father.

Parents who are consistently rude, or who reverse roles and become dependent on their adult children, parents who are too controlling, too intrusive, and treating their child like their substitute spouse, or as their servant, or their therapist, or their only friend in the whole wide world... well, such a parent is not very mentally healthy and such behavior toward their adult child is inappropriate, engulfing, enmeshed or co-dependent, or tyrannical. In any case ITS NOT HEALTHY.

In such cases, its important for your own emotional health to step back, create more emotional distance between yourself and your not-mentally-heaklthy parent, and set a boundary or two. For example, you can decide that you will only give your mother 10 minutes for each call, and limit responding to her calls to whatever frequency feels tolerable to you. Let's say one call a week.

You don't have to justify, argue, defend or explain your boundary to your mother, just enforce it.
At the end of the 10 minutes, speak over your mother if you have to, as politely as you can, and say something like "I'm sorry mother but I have to go now, there are a lot of things I need to take care of. I'll talk to you again next week. If you have a question to ask me, send me an e-mail; I'll get you and answer as soon as I can."

Its not easy to learn to do this, and its not easy to step back and create more emotional distance, but keep telling yourself that you are not responsible for your mother's feelings, but you are responsible for how you yourself react or respond to how other people treat you. Its OK to have personal boundaries, and having them and enforcing them doesn't make you a bad person or a bad daughter.

I hope that helps.

-Annie

Such good advice. I wish I'd

Such good advice. I wish I'd had someone tell me this years ago.

mom calling 2 or 3 times a day

Why do I feel quilty telling my mother today that she calls me too many times a day? She calls me two or three times a day and on the 3rd time she calls when my husband is just walking in the door from work. I tried talking to her about it today and she got mad and started crying. Now I feel quilty.....WHY?

Why do you feel guilty?

It's a great question, and unfortunately, there are no simple answers to it. But it's something that might be worth trying to explore a bit. There are lots of theories about guilt, but from your question, I wonder if in your case it may be about setting limits with your mother. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you try to figure it out: Is your guilt because you feel like your Mom is too fragile to withstand healthy boundaries? or are boundaries something that you and she haven't worked on, but might possibly be able to do? Do you feel that you don't deserve to have a life separate from her? Do you think she feels that way? Is she unhappy in her life, while you're starting to make a life for yourself? Do you feel guilty about that? Guilt doesn't always mean you're doing something wrong. I find that many people feel guilty as they separate from their parents in part because it can be hard to separate and maintain a healthy connection at the same time. I've written about separation and connection in my blog and in a number of articles; you might also want to explore more about the issue of boundaries -- I've written about them, and so have several other people on the PT website. And finally, if you continue to feel badly, or conflicted, please talk to someone professionally! It's almost always useful to hear an outsider's perspective.
All the best,
Diane

I forgot to tell you that I

I forgot to tell you that I am 51 and she is 71...does that change your response? Thank you so much for responding!

Only changes the answer slightly

Hi -- Well, actually, that gives me an opportunity to put out more questions -- like has this been going on for a long time, or has something shifted recently making you feel worse about cutting your mom off? These are questions you should always ask yourself when you feel guilty about anything. And then, maybe you can address the question with your mom. As you've probably seen from the other responses, some people respond well to these discussions and some don't; but lots of people who talk too much feel badly about it, and if handled gently, might be appreciative of someone they love opening up a discussion about it!
Best,
Diane

Why do people talk too much?

Perhaps you need to write out a script and place it next to the phone. Then you can just read it to her when she calls. Try "Mom, I'm real busy right now," or "I'm late for my appt. (hairdresser, manicure, dentist)", or "I need to lie down for a few minutes." "I have a headache" also works sometimes, and you may just have to push the hang-up button, which doesn't feel the same as hanging up the phone itself.

Your best friend is Caller ID. When asked where you were, you were napping, or outside chatting with the neighbor, or down in the basement, or you had your hands in soapy water.

Since guilt is your thing, you should make a preemptive phone call, perhaps when it's inconvenient for HER. Then you can put her on speaker phone and let her drone on while you play Free Cell or dust the furniture. Or, just call her every time you're on the toilet. That should send her the message that that's the only "down time" you really have to spare for her calls. I would forgot about trying to change HER! Only your reaction to her.

I talk too much

I know I talk too much. The words in my head form faster than my mouth can speak them so I try to get it all out NOW. I am trying to slow things down. I am. I also noticed during team presentations the other day that I could hardly wait for a member to finish so I could present. I took a deep breath (careful not to be loud because people might think I am being rude) and asked myself if my presentation was more important than his. No was the answer. So I waited my turn and listened to what he had to say. I find this very challenging. I am on medication that increases my heart rate enough to make me feel 'speedy'. I feel as though I am in a hurry all the time. So I practice all types of exercises that help me relax. They do work. And while I work on them, I have introduced humor into my life. I try to lighten things up so people are more comfortable letting me know I need to zip it. I am a serious, nerdy person who has to work at bringing that humor into my life but I do find it works. It not only makes it easier for people to give me the "shush" look with a smile, it relaxes me. I also don't take the shushing to the depths of my being. I am a good person who needs to put a sock in it sometimes! Oh, and hanging out with laid-back people is good therapy, too.

What a smart attitude!

You've clearly taken stock of yourself and faced your own personality head on; and you've found creative ways to interact with other people to help you control yourself. I like it that you've accepted that this is something you have to struggle with without seeing it as a terrible character defect; and that you are using humor to let other people know that you are ready to hear their complaints!! Good for you!
Best,
Diane

While I agree

While I agree with what many of you are saying. I am one of those constant talkers. It may seem to others that we don't care about what other people think or feel but for some of us it is more about the inability to process our thoughts internally. And also not being able to discern what or what not is important to a conversation. Many of us do care deeply about others feelings and what they have to say.
I try to let people know up front that I am a constant talker and to let them know that it is perfectly ok to tell me how they feel ( don't have time or things to do etc.) And that my feelings won't be hurt.

talking too much

Hi: I know this post is old but I want to add something very important, and that I hope everyone will consider. I KNOW (!) what the problem is for most of us talkers. It is ADD. It took me years to find out that this was a disorder I and many in my family suffered from. My children inherited this too.
My dear brother (whom I adored) drove me and everyone around him almost insane…He never took a breath! And he had absolutely no idea that he talked non stop, and when someone would manage to squeeze in a few words every now and then, he would later comment that they were terribly talkative and no fun to be around! We sometimes considered recording the conversation but figured it would just humiliate and hurt him. Sadly he has now passed on and we would give anything to hear him once more.
Thanks for listening!

talking too much

Hi: I know this post is old but I want to add something very important, and that I hope everyone will consider. I KNOW (!) what the problem is for most of us talkers. It is ADD. It took me years to find out that this was a disorder I and many in my family suffered from. My children inherited this too.
My dear brother (whom I adored) drove me and everyone around him almost insane…He never took a breath! And he had absolutely no idea that he talked non stop, and when someone would manage to squeeze in a few words every now and then, he would later comment that they were terribly talkative and no fun to be around! We sometimes considered recording the conversation but figured it would just humiliate and hurt him. Sadly he has now passed on and we would give anything to hear him once more.
Thanks for listening!

I agree with this. My mum was

I agree with this. My mum was a constant talker as I am when I get started. It's actually painful. But it is only a symptom of something else and I've come to accept that is ADD. I tend to rush through everything in life without ever truly experiencing anything. I want tomorrow over and done with today, my thoughts are that way as is my speech. People need to remember that as much as they hate the symptom, don't hate the person.
. My mum has been dead for nearly 20 years , I would do anything to hear one of rants. I'm sure to remember that when I feel like I want to die after I've subjected my son to one of my endless talk fests, the shame and guilt is palpable. I apologise profusely and then make myself 100% available and present when he talks to even it out.

Honest and insightful

Thanks for your honest and insightful comment. I think it must help people who know you that you are able to explain what is going on so clearly.
Best,
Diane

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • You may quote other posts using [quote] tags.

More information about formatting options

F. Diane Barth, L.C.S.W., is a psychotherapist, teacher, and author in private practice in New York City.

more...

Subscribe to Off the Couch

Current Issue

Just Say It

When and how should we open up to loved ones?