How do You Deal With a Colleague Who Talks Alot?


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Patrick was visibly upset when he sat down for the practice session. “I’m within my limits,” he said, shaking his head. He once again had a planning meeting with a member of his marketing team. Although Patrick enjoyed working with this person most of the time, he was unhappy with the fact that meetings with her often took 20 or 30 minutes longer than expected, thus delaying Patrick for her next appointments. His colleague tended to stay off topic and talk a lot, monopolizing the conversation.

Perhaps you can identify with Patrick’s difficulty. We’ve all had the experience of working with someone who doesn’t seem to understand that you talk a lot. This person could be someone who won’t stop texting you all day, teases you to go into detail about the weekend, or calls you and asks you to talk for 10 minutes and instead keeps you locked up for an hour.

It was clear to me that Patrick had to put limits on his teammate. But when I suggested it, he balked at the idea. “Sometimes I get tired of interacting with her, it’s not okay. The last thing I want to do is make her feel bad though.” Patrick’s concerns did not surprise me, as many of my clients have already expressed themselves in the same way.

The professionals and leaders I train are “responsive leaders,” a term I use to describe emotional people who also accomplish a lot. Sensitive leaders are empathic and deeply understanding of emotional dynamics, and this is part of what makes them good leaders. But these qualities can also make them avoid conflict and seek to please others.

If you’re worried about ruining your relationship with a co-worker who talks too much, think about the price you’d pay if nothing changed. It may seem like you are taking the easy way out and being patient and generous when you let the person do the talking, but in reality you are building a toxic relationship that will hurt you both personally and professionally.

There are many reasons why people talk a lot (anxiety, disorganization, selfishness, etc.), but no matter what the cause of the problem, you must prioritize your needs and protect your team by setting boundaries in a courteous and compassionate way to get the job done.

Anticipate Orders.

For a moment, think about the colleagues with whom you interact regularly and who talk a lot. By keeping in mind who these people are, you can prepare ahead of time for these meetings with them. Before you start chatting, set your limits. Clearly set a time limit for the interaction by saying something like “I have another appointment in an hour” or “I want to warn you that I can only talk for 10 minutes.”

There is no need to explain why you put a time limit on them. The need to finish tasks, rest or take a break are important enough reasons. And when you set a limit, it’s important to enforce it and end the meeting when you said you would. If you allow the person to speak after the allotted time, you let them know that you don’t have to take their requests seriously.

A Sign That Time is Running Out.

If you tell your co-worker that you can only talk for an hour, remind yourself, by all means, for 45 minutes and start ending the conversation. You could say something like, “In these remaining 15 minutes, let’s focus on our next steps. I’ll be on this task while you complete the other.” Another possibility is to use the coaching technique and ask a broad question, such as “We are at the end of our meeting. To end our time together, I would like to hear from you about what we talked about today.”

Practice Strategic Interruption.

Sometimes it is difficult, but it is possible to intervene strategically. Start with polite phrases like “Is it okay to share something?” or “I would like to add to what I just said, if I may…”

You can also use gestures like raising your index finger or hand. In a virtual meeting, use the chat feature to alert the person that he or she has something you want to share.

Another way to indicate that you want to speak is by repeating your voice. Sometimes it may be necessary to assert yourself more strongly. There is an affirmative technique called a broken disk that can be helpful. It simply consists of repeating the same phrase. You can say the person’s name (“So-and-so, so-and-so, I’m sorry, I want to get back to what I was doing”) or a sentence (“We should stop today. We should stop for today”). ).

Express Yourself in The First Person.

When setting boundaries, it’s best to say “I” to acknowledge your point of view and express yourself. This means speaking in the first person (I, I) instead of in the first person (you, you). Here are some examples of how it is used:

  • I have a deadline and I don’t have time to talk right now.
  • To give the best possible performance, I need time to concentrate. thank you for understanding.
  • I’m confused and don’t have time to add what I want to this conversation. Can we resume next week?
  • Other times, I know I can help you with that, but I can’t anymore.
  • I felt that our conversations were unbalanced in some respects. Can we talk about how to make them more equal?

Limit the Conversation to a Specific Time.

Your co-workers talking about you may ask for your advice and guidance more than you would like. You can simplify these requests by creating systems that protect you from a constant barrage of questions. Some of my clients keep their “off hours” by setting aside calendar time when colleagues are welcome for problem solving, informal discussions, and more. If you take this approach, you can respond to your colleague’s attempted conversation by saying, “What a great topic. Could you come to my office on Tuesday at 2 PM? You made time for questions like this.”

Bring the Big Picture.

Your colleague’s tendency to talk a lot may eventually require a larger feedback conversation. This is essential if that person’s gossip is having a significant negative impact on you or your time, to a level that affects productivity, timeliness, or even the customer experience.

If a conversation like this becomes necessary, start by resetting your expectations for your professional relationship. Talk about your availability and hours, the way you organize your meeting agendas, and what you both need to perform at your best.

Setting limits can be awkward, especially when colleagues are involved. But it is an exercise that can build your confidence. Every time you set limits, you are sending a signal to yourself that your energy, preferences, and desires are just as important and valuable as anyone else’s.


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