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Do You Talk Too Much?

You may not be aware of the impact this has on others and their view of you.

Having the gift of gab may be a valuable trait, but sometimes talkativeness can be too much of a good thing. When does one cross the line from being an interesting conversationalist and effective communicator to becoming a boring gabber who holds others hostage with their excessive verbiage? Here are what communication researchers have found.

Researchers suggest that some talkative individuals are compulsive talkers with communication incompetence. Compulsive talkers talk more than anyone wants to listen and say little that is meaningful. They have a high need to talk and are often excessively wordy. Such individuals have a lack of awareness of others’ reaction to their talkativeness; they talk “at” rather than “to” others.

Compulsive talking has been called “talkaholism” drawing a linkage to other behaviors taken to excess such as workaholic and chocoholic (McCroskey & Richmond, 1995). Although others perceive compulsive talkers as having a problem, “talkaholics” remain unaware of their behavior. Characteristics of talkaholics identified by the early pioneers of this research, McCroskey and Richmond (1995), included:

  • Rarely staying quiet, even when they know they should.
  • Rejecting efforts to modify their overtalking.
  • Lacking self-awareness of how they monopolize conversations, or ignoring others’ irritation at their verbosity, or thwarting attempts to be interrupted.
  • If made aware, they are either unwilling to stop talking because they love to talk, or have a great deal of difficulty changing their behavior.
  • Overtalking consistently across all situations: home, work, social gathering.

In an interesting small qualitative field study, Axsom (2006) examined the impact of compulsive talkers on their co-workers. Axsom identified compulsive talkers in the work environment as having these characteristics:

  • Ignoring verbal and non-verbal cues of their co-workers to stop talking.
  • Non-stop monologues/dominating conversations.
  • Repeating the same stories to the same colleagues.
  • Lack of interest in work topics, or coworkers’ interests.

Compulsive talkers impacted colleagues by causing irritation and frustration. They created delays in getting work done on time or caused co-workers to stay late or work at home to make up for time lost. Co-workers were more productive when the compulsive talker was not at work.

Not surprisingly, compulsive talking can result in social isolation, as such individuals tend to be perceived negatively by others and avoided.

How do you know if you talk too much?

Most of us are unlikely to fall at the extreme spectrum of compulsive, non-stop talking. But the fact is, if we are honest in our self-appraisal, most of us may enjoy hearing our voice more than we do listening to what others have to say. Yet good listeners are perceived positively by others, are better liked, are more likely to be promoted at work, and help others cope with problems (Bodie, 2012). Effective listening is a skill that can be developed. Houston (2020) targeted listening as a key leadership skill taught by executive coaches and identified a useful acronym to trim excessive verbiage: W.A.I.T., or Why Am I Talking? However, listening requires discipline. It also involves being in the moment and not merely remaining silent and waiting for one’s turn to speak. Humanistic psychology identifies that process as empathic listening, which is characterized as active, genuine, and reflecting engagement with others (Rogers, 1967).

Consider monitoring your listening-to-speaking ratio. If you talk more than you listen, then you are likely talking too much.

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Axsom, J. R. (2006). "Compulsive talkers: Perceptions of over talkers within the workplace." Student Work. 205.

Bodie, G. D. (2012). Listening as positive communication. In T. Socha & M. Pitts, (Eds.). The positive side of interpersonal communication (pp. 109-126). New York: Peter Lang.

Houston, P. (2020, July 2). Bottom-lining is a leadership skill. Leadyoufirst.

McCroskey, J. C., & Richmond, V. P. (1995). Correlates of compulsive communication: Quantitative and qualitative characteristics. Communication Quarterly, 43(1), 39-52. DOI:10.1080/01463379509369954

Rogers, C. R. (1967). The therapeutic relationship and its impact. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Madison Press.