Setting boundaries can be challenging, especially when dealing with friends and family members who tend to dominate conversations. In this blog post, we’ll explore effective strategies for establishing and enforcing clear and polite boundaries with people who talk too much.
People “over-talk” for all sorts of reasons, including anxiety, selfishness, or missed social cues. No matter the reason, when one person dominates a conversation or takes more than they give in a relationship, it can leave us feeling resentful, burdened, and unimportant. So, let’s delve into some practical techniques that will help you set boundaries and build healthy, mutually satisfying relationships.
Set Clear Expectations from the Start
When you anticipate a conversation with an “overtalker” or person who talks incessantly, it’s important to set a boundary right from the start. Begin by expressing your time constraints and other obligations. For example, you can say, “Hey Mary, it’s great to talk to you. I have 20 minutes to chat before I need to attend to other tasks. So, at 2:30, I’ll have to end our conversation.”
By establishing this boundary upfront, you set clear expectations for both parties involved. It helps the other person understand your limited availability and gives them an idea of the conversation’s timeframe.
Stick to Your Boundaries
Setting a boundary is not enough; you must also enforce it. If the person continues talking even after you’ve stated your time limit, gently remind them of the boundary and take steps to end the conversation. It’s essential to take action to reinforce the boundary you’ve set.
If you’ve reminded the person two or three times about your time constraints, it’s not impolite to follow through on your stated plan. Remember, it’s your responsibility to enforce the boundaries you establish. By doing so, you demonstrate respect for your own time and priorities.
Recognize That Your Needs Matter
A common problem in setting boundaries is the tendency to overvalue someone else’s need to talk while undervaluing our own needs. It’s essential to recognize that your needs are just as important as the other person’s. So, don’t automatically prioritize someone else’s needs over your own.
Your needs don’t need to be explained or justified. Whether it’s a need for rest, personal tasks you need to accomplish, or simply a desire for quiet time, your needs are valid. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that your needs are less valuable than someone else’s. Acknowledge your commitments to yourself and honor them. By prioritizing self-care, you demonstrate self-respect and set a healthy example for others.
Should You Make an Excuse to End a Conversation?
Often, people make excuses to end a conversation. If making an excuse, such as saying you have an appointment, works for you, you can certainly do it. I’m not a huge fan of this strategy because it implies that there are valid reasons for ending a conversation (usually, commitments to other people) and invalid reasons (commitments to ourselves or acts of self-care).
Instead of making an excuse you can simply say:
- I need to go now.
- I have another commitment.
- I have something to attend to.
- This isn’t a good time.
Remember, even when someone presses you for a reason, you don’t have to give one.
Name the Problem and Find a Solution Together
When overtalking is a chronic problem, it can be helpful to address it head-on. Don’t assume that the other person knows how you feel or understands the social cues you’re using to indicate that you want to end conversations. Instead, explain how their behavior is affecting you and what you want to change. Use a warm tone of voice and avoid blaming or anger. Invite the other person to help you come up with a solution.
Here’s an example: I often feel frustrated and unimportant during our talks. It seems like I’m doing all the listening and I don’t get a chance to talk about what’s going on in my life. Our friendship’s important to me and I’d like to find a way to make our conversations more balanced. Would you be willing to work on a solution with me?
Talking about the problem directly will probably feel uncomfortable. Let me assure you that identifying a problem and asking for a change is not unkind when it’s done thoughtfully. Trying to collaboratively solve relationship problems demonstrates that the relationship matters to you.
And while there’s no guarantee that addressing it directly will solve the problem, it may start to shift things in this relationship and bring more awareness to your needs and the importance of conversations that work for both parties.
Communicate with Empathy
When setting boundaries, it’s important to communicate assertively and empathetically. Expressing your needs doesn’t mean disregarding or dismissing the other person’s feelings. Strive for open and honest communication, where both parties can understand and respect each other’s perspectives.
Use “I” statements to express how you feel and explain the importance of your boundaries. For example, say, “I need some quiet time to recharge, so I have to end the conversation now.” By expressing your needs kindly and respectfully, you foster understanding and strengthen your relationships.
Setting Boundaries with People who Talk Too Much: Final Thoughts
Dealing with people who talk too much can be extremely frustrating. Try to set boundaries from the start and stick to them. Remember that your needs matter as much as everyone else’s! You don’t need to make excuses or give reasons for ending a conversation with someone who talks a lot. Do what’s best for you and deliver your boundaries with kindness. If the problem persists, let the other person know how their behavior is negatively impacting you and try to find ways to make the relationship more balanced.
Watch my video about setting boundaries with people who talk too much!
©2023 Dr. Sharon Martin, LCSW. All rights reserved. Photos courtesy of Canva.com.
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