Are you a talkaholic? Social scientists have found that people who talk for more than 30 to 40 seconds are perceived as boring or overly talkative.
People who talk too much are known to:
- overtake conversations
- interrupt or talk over others
- ramble about irrelevant topics
- forget to listen to other people
Whether you’ve been told you talk too much or you notice that people try to escape conversations with you, overcommunication may be harming your relationships.
Yes, overcommunication is real!
Fortunately, you can conquer overtalking with the art of listening. This is a social skill that anyone can master. With these science-backed tips, you can stop overtalking and become a better conversationalist.
Why Do People Talk So Much?
Some people are naturally just chatty, while others don’t realize they overtalk because they are nervous.
At best, people who talk a lot may appear passionate and excited. But in the worst cases, people perceive overtalkers as annoying, self-absorbed, unprofessional, or socially unskilled. Researchers have even found that compulsive talkers can reduce their co-workers’ productivity.
If you are an overtalker, don’t worry: It’s not entirely your fault—the human brain tends to get a big dopamine rush when talking about yourself. Harvard neuroscientists looked at the brains of people talking about themselves and found that it triggered the same pleasure areas as food, drugs, and sex.
Excessive talking can come from:
- Cultural or familial upbringing: Depending on someone’s family history and childhood, they may be more prone to overtalking. For example, an only child with loquacious parents is likelier to become a talkative adult than someone with many siblings.
- Insecurity: When someone lacks confidence, they may seek validation or approval by talking about themselves more often.
- Overexcitement: Sometimes people are just passionate and we need these exuberant personalities in the world! But someone who is overexcited about a project or a conversation topic may not notice themselves going over the top with their rambling.
- Social awkwardness or nervousness: Socially inept people may not understand the basic social skills and cues that are common in their culture. As a result, they can’t pick up on the subtle signs that they are talking excessively.
- Self-absorption or narcissism: These people love themselves so much that they don’t care to hear what others say. Self-absorbed individuals often lack empathy or interest in others.
- Lack of awareness: Some people genuinely don’t know they are talking too much. In their heads, it may seem like they are speaking a normal amount because nobody has ever told them otherwise.
- Missing social cues: When someone doesn’t pick up on social cues that they’re talking too much (for example, when conversation partners are checking their watch or unable to get a word in) they may keep going because they are oblivious to the body language of others.
Quiz: How to Know If You Talk Too Much
Social scientists have found that people who talk for more than 30 to 40 seconds are perceived as boring or overly talkative. However, due to different cultural and social contexts, a time frame isn’t always the best way to gauge if you talk too much. After all, everyone has a different perception of what is “too chatty.”
The key signs of a talkaholic include:
- Talking for more than 60-70% of a conversation
- Rambling with unnecessary information
- Repeating the same things over and over again
- Not thinking before you talk
- Excessive focus on your opinions and ideas (never asking about other people)
- Interrupting others while they’re speaking
- Raising your voice to talk over people
- Thinking about what you’ll say next instead of listening to others
- Noticing others glance at their watch or have a bored glazed look
Take this quiz to weigh out some nuances and analyze if you might be talking too much during conversations. Answer as truthfully as you can and remember that there is no shame in overtalking—most of us have been guilty of it at some time or another!
- Which of these is most true about you in social situations?
- A. I listen and talk in roughly equal amounts.
- B. I have a hard time staying silent and listening.
- C. I accidentally interrupt people.
- D. Both A and B
- Which of these social cues do you often notice while you’re talking to someone?
- A. They maintain eye contact throughout the conversation.
- B. They cross their arms or fidget.
- C. They smile and nod as you talk, but you don’t do the same when they talk.
- D. They look around and check their phone or watch while you’re talking. They try to escape the conversation.
- Has anyone close to you ever called you…?
- A. A great conversationalist
- B. Chatterbox
- C. Self-absorbed
- D. A “know-it-all”
- E. None of the above
- Are most of your conversations centered around…?
- A. Mutual interests with other people, including questions about their lives.
- B. Mostly things about me, but a little bit about them.
- C. Their interests and ideas but I tend to relate back to me.
- D. Me me me! Your passions, opinions, and life experiences.
- Do you find yourself regularly interrupting people or speaking over them?
- A. No, I don’t interrupt others.
- B. Sometimes, if I get too excited about what I’m going to say next.
- C. Yes, I forget to listen to other people and respond very quickly.
- D. Yes, my voice can be loud and dominating in a conversation.
If all A= “You may be talking just the right amount.”
If all B= “You might talk too much in some situations.”
If all C= “You may need to work on your listening skills.”
If all D= “You’re probably a talkaholic.”
If you still don’t feel clear on whether or not you’re talking too much, it might help to ask a trusted friend or family member for their honest opinion. You can say, “I’m trying to improve my social skills, and I’d love your opinion on something. Do you think I talk too much during conversations?”
15 Actionable Tips to Stop Overtalking & Listen More
A lot of people are oblivious to the imbalance in their conversations. If you think you might be a talkaholic, your self-acknowledgment of the problem is a huge stride forward! There is no reason to feel embarrassed about past conversations (you can’t go back in time). Instead, learn to override this bad habit and become a better communicator with these tips.
#1 Notice the signs that you’re talking too much
Often, the most common reason behind overtalking is simply misreading the signs. Some people don’t pick up on the social cues and body language of others that indicate they’re overstaying their verbal welcome.
Not everyone is blunt enough to tell you, “You’re talking too much” or, “I have to leave.” Instead, they typically use these body language cues to subliminally tell you that they’re trying to escape the conversation.
When you’re talking too much, people tend to:
- Check their phone or watch
- Avoid eye contact
- Dart their gaze
- Lean away or back up
- Look bored
- Turn their feet away from you
- Turn their torso towards the door
- Mention that they have to leave soon
- Grab their belongings
- Stop responding or asking questions
If you’ve felt trapped in a conversation with someone who won’t stop talking, you can relate to the feeling people might get when they’re talking to you. Study these 62 Ways to Politely End a Conversation in Any Situation to understand more nonverbal and verbal cues people use to communicate that you’re overtalking.
#2 Add a roadblock
It can be hard to stop talking when you get “on a roll” with a thought or idea. Like a car accelerating onto the highway, once you gain momentum, it becomes harder to put on the brakes.
If you accidentally get lost in your conversations, try one of these self-imposed “roadblocks” to slow down your momentum:
- Interrupt yourself: As soon as you notice you’re rambling or blabbing, interject your solo speech with a transitionary phrase like “anyways” or “enough about that.”
- Take a deep breath: It’s easy to get out of breath when you’re talking very quickly. A slow, deep breath can quickly recalibrate your social compass, so you don’t accidentally go off on a 10-minute monologue. It also gives the other person time to chime in.
- Ask a question: When your conversation partner begins showing the above cues that you may be overtalking, it’s time to ask something about them. If you’ve been talking too much about yourself, you can pass the mic to them by asking, “What are your thoughts?” or, “So, how have you been?”
- Make a joke: Humor can take the edge off of awkward situations. You can always chuckle and say, “Oops, didn’t mean to be a blabbermouth,” or “Enough about me, how’s your life?”
#3 Avoid uptalking
People who talk a lot in conversations can often be heard turning statements into questions. This raised voice at the end of a sentence is a way for the speaker to discourage other people from asking questions or interrupting their train of thought.
Here is a quick video demonstrating normal speaking versus uptalk:
Linguistically, this is called uptalk, upspeak, or High Rising Terminal (HRT). It is a quirk that makes the end of your sentence sound like a question. This rising inflection at the end of a sentence makes a declarative statement such as “I would love for you to review my work.” sound like “I would love for you to review my work?”
This speaking pattern can make you sound:
- Less confident
While these outcomes can be OK in certain scenarios, uptalk can also reinforce you to keep talking for longer than necessary. Avoid upspeak by imagining that your statements end with a period. Keep your voice in the same ending tone as when you began speaking.
#4 Embrace the sound of silence
People who are very passionate about a conversation may talk for long amounts of time because they are eager to share their ideas. However, the lack of silence between your thoughts can make others feel like they can’t get a word in.
Brief moments of silence in conversation don’t have to be awkward. While awkward silences may extend for more than 4 seconds in English speakers, a brief 1-3 second pause can positively impact the rhythm of dialogue between two people.
Strategic silence serves a few very important roles in conversation:
- Silence gives you more time to think before you speak, so you don’t blurt out something you don’t mean.
- Silence makes it seem like you are “taking in” what the other person said.
- A short silence can indicate that you are comfortable with your conversation partner and don’t feel rushed to fill the lull immediately.
- Silence makes you seem calmer and more confident in your social skills.
Many overtalkers jump in to share their viewpoint immediately after another person finishes talking. Or worse—they interrupt them before they’ve completed their thought. Both of these can be avoided with strategic silence.
Rather than rushing into your response, wait a few seconds after someone talks to let their words linger in the air. Take a deep inhale and exhale, or try slowly counting “one Mississippi—two Mississippi—three Mississippi” in your head before you open your mouth again.
#5 Ask more questions
Asking questions about others is scientifically proven to make you more likable, yet most people spend 60% of their conversations talking about themselves. While talking about yourself isn’t inherently wrong, it can turn people off in social situations. Talkaholics are prone to forgetting that they should ask about the other person.
For example, in a basic workplace conversation, you may seem to talk too much based on how you answer this question:
Coworker: “Hey! How was your weekend?”
You: “It was great! I took my dog to the beach and met up with an old friend for lunch.”
At this point, an overtalker might go into the details of how they felt over the weekend, how much sleep they got, or other irrelevant information their coworker may not care about. However, since you are becoming an expert conversationalist, you know it is a great opportunity to “toss the ball” back into their court with a question.
At the end of your answer, you may continue with, “We went to a delicious new Thai restaurant called Lotus Flower. Have you tried it yet?” Or simply flip the question back to them, “What did you do this weekend?”
Questions can also be used to extend comfort and offer validation for someone’s feelings:
Friend: “I’ve been feeling pretty lost ever since the breakup. It’s like my whole life has been uprooted, and I don’t know exactly what to do next.”
Someone who talks a lot might take this opportunity to shift the spotlight back to themselves and discuss their experience with a breakup. An overtalker may even give unsolicited advice. Instead, asking a question can make you seem more empathetic and caring about your friend’s feelings.
You: “I can see how that would be difficult. Are you still doing any of your favorite hobbies to help de-stress?”
Regardless of the scenario, questions are one of the best ways to express interest in other people and stop yourself from talking too much. Here are 257 Juicy Questions to Ask your Friends.
#6 Be an active listener
Listening is the simplest antidote to overtalking because someone truly listening cannot be talking simultaneously. Many talkaholics mistakenly spend their “listening” time just thinking about what they will say next.
Instead, you should try to listen to understand rather than respond. Practice these active listening skills as often as possible:
|Active Listener||Unengaged Listener|
|Focused eye contact||Darting gaze|
|Ignoring distractions to focus on the speaker||Checking phone, TV, or the surroundings|
|Subtle listening sounds like “oh,” “mhm,” or “wow.”||Complete silence or no responsiveness|
|Nonverbal cues like nodding or leaning in||Arms crossed, no movements or facing away|
|Remembering details about their thoughts||Forgetting what they just said|
|Asking great questions||Bringing up unrelated topics that show you weren’t listening|
#7 Think of conversations like a tennis match
The average person spends more than half of a discussion talking about themselves, but an overtalker could spend upwards of 70 to 80% of the conversation listening to the sound of their own voice. If you want to stop talking so much, you must learn how to balance your conversations.
Try using “tennis match dialogue” to maintain an even flow of dialogue. In this analogy, the ball is like the conversation microphone; it gets passed evenly between people. The court represents the person who is talking at a given point. An even tennis match conversation sounds like:
- Serve the ball: You ask a question and pass the conversation into their court.
- They answer and send the ball back into your court.
- You talk about their answer or express a related point.
- You ask another related question to deepen the discussion and send the ball back into their court.
Next time you catch yourself hogging the spotlight, remember to keep the ball moving between both courts. A 50/50 or 60/40 balance of speaking time helps ensure you don’t accidentally dominate the conversation. When in doubt, try to focus on the other person as much as possible. This can make you seem more interesting and polite.
#8 Check your ego
People who talk over others or continuously talk about themselves may be genuinely uninterested in other people. Self-absorbed people tend to dominate conversations due to confidence issues, narcissism, or old-fashioned arrogance.
But what does “check your ego” really mean? It means moving your focus away from yourself and looking at the bigger picture of interaction. Try to:
- Think about how your core values or personal mission relate to the conversation.
- Remind yourself that you are not the center of the universe. While you are probably very interesting and fun to talk to, other people also want to feel like you care about them.
- Don’t try to impress other people. Work to base your self-esteem on your passions, beliefs, and accomplishments rather than the opinions of others.
#9 Speak more concisely
Overtalkers are prone to adding unnecessary or unrelated information to their speech. They may add filler words, side stories, and repetitive statements to overcomplicate a simple message. This can waste time and confuse people about what you’re trying to communicate.
The best communicators are concise and direct. They don’t fill their sentences with unnecessary “fluff” that detracts from the key message. Think about how you can use the fewest words to go straight to the point without over-explaining the situation.
Concise: “The project will be done by Monday.”
Too much fluff: “I’m sorry, I can’t have the project done until early next week because I’ve got so much on my plate right now.”
Concise: “I am running late.”
Too much fluff: “I’m going to be late to work because I stayed up too late and slept past my alarm.”
Concise: “I accidentally locked the key in the car. Do you have a spare?”
Too much fluff: “I locked the keys in the car because I was in a huge rush and I got really stressed about everything going on at work. I’m sorry, please don’t be upset with me. Our car should beep or something to let us know the keys are left in there.”
#10 Avoid filler words and phrases
Focus on the quality of your words rather than the quantity. Filler phrases often add complexity to a sentence that isn’t necessary. They can make you seem hesitant or less articulate. They also detract from your credibility and confidence.
Avoid filler words and meaningless or redundant phrases like:
- “In order to”
- “With regard to…”
- “As a matter of fact”
- At the present time”
- “In the event that”
- “For the most part”
- “As I said before…”
- “I just wanted to tell you…”
- “The fact that”
- “Needless to say”
Action Step: Make a 2-minute video of yourself as you talk about a childhood memory. Then, count how many fillers you use and try to re-tell the story with more straightforward language.
#11 Use a timer to excuse yourself
Networking events and parties can be problematic for overtalkers because there is no clear time constraint for your conversations. It’s easy to go off on tangents and lose track of time. Set a timer on your phone as an excuse to leave before engaging in a conversation. The beeper will remind you to pause, analyze the conversation, and decide whether or not it’s time to end it. Two to five minutes can be nice for speed networking, while five to ten minutes may be better for party settings. When the timer goes off, say, “Excuse me, I have to go.”
#12 Overcome social awkwardness
Feeling socially awkward can lead to talking too much because you may not know how to behave in social settings. You may feel nervous or embarrassed about their social skills, which can lead to rambling or oversharing unimportant information.
Here are 8 Signs You’re Socially Inept & How to Overcome Awkwardness. The quickest changes you can make include:
- Changing your internal talk: Stop telling yourself you’re “the awkward one.”
- Laughing at your blunders: Humor takes the edge off in uncomfortable moments.
- Staying in your personal bubble: If the person you’re talking to takes a step back, you may be too close. If they keep stepping forward, you may be too far away.
- Filtering your speech: Avoid blurting out cringey, inappropriate, or taboo comments by thinking before you speak.
#13 Interrupt your impulses with this trick
Compulsive talking can become a bad habit you repeat without thinking about it. To make matters worse, overtalkers also tend to be impulsive interrupters. When you interrupt people, you are clearly sending the message that you don’t care what they have to say.
According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, the best way to get rid of a bad habit is not to “break” it but to create a system that replaces the habit with a better one.
Next time you feel the impulse to interrupt or talk over someone, replace the compulsion with:
- Counting: Outsmart your compulsions by silently counting to yourself before you speak. Author of the 5 Second Rule, Mel Robbins, advises counting backward from 5-4-3-2-1 to interrupt your brain’s hard-wired patterns.
- A deep breath: It’s impossible to talk during a deep breath. When you feel you’re about to blurt something out, take a deep inhale, count to 3, then exhale and let the other person continue thinking.
- An apology: If you’ve already said something to interrupt someone, notice it as quickly as possible and say, “I apologize for interrupting. It’s a bad habit I’m trying to stop. Please continue what you were saying.” Eventually, you’ll get tired of apologizing and catch yourself before you have to.
See Vanessa Van Edwards’s interview with James Clear here:
#14 Don’t overshare
While vulnerability is important for forming relationships, oversharing can negatively affect your social experience. People who talk excessively in social settings often reveal intimate details about themselves that they regret later. For example, if an acquaintance says, “Hey, I noticed you’ve been MIA on social media lately. Are you doing OK?”
Oversharing Response: “Oh yeah, I’ve been extremely depressed after my dog died and I lost my job. Now I’m having a bunch of mental health and hormonal problems, and my therapist said I might need to take medication….”
This is also known as emotional dumping. When you’re lonely or going through a hard time, it is natural and healthy to share deep feelings with people you are close to, but it’s best to keep things more private when talking with coworkers or strangers. A less revealing response would be:
Boundaries Response: “Thanks for noticing. I just needed to take a break from social for a bit. Anything I’m missing out on?”
Use this complete guide on How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Draw the Line Politely. Our top tips are:
- Visualize and name the limits of what you will share with people.
- Don’t be afraid to say “no” when others ask invasive questions.
- Take time for yourself to reflect on your boundaries.
#15 Ask yourself this crucial question
Businesses always ask, “how does this product/service better serve our customers?” You can use the same mindset in your daily interactions. After all, communication is a transaction of information and time. You don’t want to waste your time or anybody else’s. Before you start talking, ask yourself:
How is this conversation benefiting the other person?
Some conversation benefits include:
- Learning about a new topic
- Showing your genuine interest or support in a friend
- Being emotionally available for a family member
- Building rapport for a future business deal
- Explaining how you can help someone achieve their goal
- Discussing how to solve a problem
Key Takeaways: Stop Talking Too Much by Replacing Your Conversation Habits
Ultimately, excessive talking and interrupting people in the conversation are simply bad habits. You can replace these habits with more socially acceptable practices, such as:
- Deep breaths: Stop your impulsive interrupting in its tracks by taking a few deep breaths in between your speech. Try a 3-second inhale, 3-second hold, and 3-second exhale (quietly so it doesn’t disturb the flow of conversation).
- Active listening: Use eye contact, nodding, or verbal affirmations that you’re listening to what someone has to say. Hold off on formulating your thoughts until you have fully processed what they’re communicating.
- Non-verbal cues: Notice when people are checking their phone, darting their gaze, or facing their torso away from you as you talk. These are key signs that you may be talking too much, and they are getting bored or antsy to leave.
- Timer reminders: Set a 5-10 minute timer on your phone before approaching someone at a networking event or party. When it goes off, you have a quick excuse to leave the conversation by looking at your watch or phone and saying, “pardon me.”
- Counting: After someone finishes talking, count backward from 5-4-3-2-1 before you start speaking.
Next time you’re having trouble stopping yourself from talking, try one of these 62 Ways to Politely End a Conversation in ANY Situation.