I hold the phone far away from my ear, somehow thinking if I do this the other person will know what I’m doing and stop talking. They don’t! Words are flung at me rapidly, drilling down into tiny details, with the compulsive talker unaware of my frustration at the other end. They are comfortable with my slight mumblings or silence.
I would occasionally interject a thought, and there would be quiet at the other end, maybe they are listening, yet as soon as I take a breath, they pick up exactly where they left off. If they take in what I’ve said, they are off on a tangent with their thoughts about the subject. It’s not fair, and I hate this experience.
What I love is a lively conversation, even if we are interrupting each other, bouncing back and forth, adding tidbits of ideas, sharing experiences, and all the time listening to the other person and, at a moment’s notice, can stop and be present to them. It’s beautiful to receive and to give the gift of listening.
When I’m on with the compulsive talker, no one is present as both of us are in our worlds. We are not listening to each other.
A half an hour later I finally hang up the phone and say aloud to myself, “I’m fine too.” It’s my way of recognizing the other person didn’t even ask how I was doing. Relieved I’m no longer cornered by their words I try to shake off the negative feelings within me. There must be a better way.
I believe that I am in charge of my reactions, so I start to process just what happened. I sat on the phone listening to a person drill down into every single detail of their lives…their children or grandchildren, work, their feelings, complaints, and the list goes on. I’ve cleaned the kitchen, straighten up the papers on my desk, read my email, and do whatever I could to distract myself from experience.
Why do I stay on the phone? They are good people, I have a history with them and am not ready to relinquish the relationship. We all use our friends to share our experiences and help us sort through an issue in our lives. What frustrates me is the friend whose motor starts, and they don’t know how to stop it. I’ve always wondered whether they would be great writers because their tenacity for details is incredible.
I don’t want to subject myself to another marathon of words, so how do I deal with the issue going forward?
I’ve decided I wasn’t going to speak on the phone as much. I’ve noticed that face-to-face interaction with compulsive talkers works better because they receive feedback. It may not stop the behavior but at least lessens the duration of the experience.
They can bring fun times with them, but I do know that their compulsive behavior will surface, so I limit the time we spend together, and I don’t build up a reservoir of frustration with this person.
Finally, if I choose to be with them or talk on the phone, I surround us both with a circle of love. I take responsibility for creating an atmosphere that supports my well-being.
Relationships are important to me, and over the years I’ve learned that it’s a balancing act between loving the other person as they are and ensuring my well-being.
How do you balance your relationship with a compulsive talker? Have you learn of different ways to not get caught by a compulsive talker?
Women’s Group Topics
Compulsive talkers also show up in groups. How does your group respectfully handle individuals who like to talk a lot?
“To fully enjoy the ‘richness’ of our lives, we need to stop long enough to visit with ourselves.”
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Ideas on how to handle a compulsive talker!!!
20 thoughts on “The Compulsive Talker”
I have been married to a compulsive talker for 29 years. NOTHING shuts him up! If you try to interrupt, he talks louder, when he is nervous or anxious he talks faster. He doesn’t seem to “hear” other people making comments or trying to get into the conversation, he doesn’t notice people rolling their eyes at him or trying to get away, he just keeps talking.
The conversations are almost always about himself or his accomplishments.
We have had so many arguments about this during our marriage. I cannot get through to him, he refuses to “listen.”
Our social life has declined drastically over the years. I don’t invite anyone new over or participate in social engagements. We only see people that already know us or that are relatives that know what they are getting into.
In every other way he is a wonderful hardworking man who is devoted to me. He served 22 years in the Military and would give anyone the shirt off his back.
Sounds like through all of the trials and tribulations of living with a compulsive talker you care for this man. You see his goodness which says something about you.
When we decide to stay with a partner, even when they have a challenging issue, we need friends around to make connections with and share ourselves. I hope that you have done that for yourself.
This is a great site that you have here. I have a blog myself where anyone can freely express their opinion on controversial topics. After looking at your site, I know that you have some valuable insight that you can share with us.
Keep up the good work. Maybe we can do a link exchange.
Thanks for visiting. I hope you enjoy blogging as much as I do.
I met a man through an online dating forum. In writing, he expressed himself intelligently, thoughtfully & in fact beautifully. In speaking by phone the first time he kept me on the phone for over an hour, with a talking ratio of 95% (him) to 5% (me). Later by email he apologized and I ended up giving him credit for having insight & decided to accept a date. I rationalized that maybe he was just lonely. We dated for about 2 weeks but his pattern of compulsive talking seemed hard-wired. This was a highly educated gentleman with a tremendous work history and professional credentials. He employed an impressive vocabulary. Yet this incessant talk drove me mad. It created tension, was a barrier to any possibility of intimacy and ultimately was mind-numbingly boring. I felt trapped and angry every time he regaled me. His experience seemed quite the opposite. I observed a rapt expression on his face. Clearly he derived joy from his own monologues, oblivious to the effect they had on me.
When I broke things off he wanted to know why and I simply said that I couldn’t feel toward him what I wanted to feel, leaving it like that. Maybe I should been more honest & told him the truth…that his excessive talking made me miserable. But I was loathe to be rude.
My advice: stay closely tuned to your own responses & when things don’t feel right, trust your gut and protect your boundaries. I allowed this man to take my time, energy and good will a lot longer than I should have.
I have a friend who is a compulsive talker and is aware of the problem. I literally have felt like my ear was going to melt off after listening to her tangents for 20 or minutes without a break. I would sit the phone down and go get something to drink only to return with her still talking. What’s worse is that these chronic talkers end up telling you the same stories over and over as if they are using you as a sound board to resolve some deep seeded issue…only it doesn’t ever get resolved. I don’t know what the cure is for these types of people but I do know that I have to protect myself and my energy regardless of whether she gets the hint or not. She often says well that’s just the way I am. Ok then, I will be the one to decide whether to end the friendship or just keep enabling her bad habit.
Either way, intentional or unintentional, I feel like my good listening nature is being abused. It is a sort of abuse of a person’s kindness when you completely hog a conversation..it’s like you just can’t get off the freakin stage, and let’s face it..no one likes to see the same actor on stage doing the same monologue over and over again. It’s boring and a waste of time!!
WOW, it’s as if I wrote this myself!! Just about everything you said is the kind of thing I’m experiencing now and even some of the comments here hit the nail on the head! I recently got into a relationship with a wonderful guy and I felt as though I could see a future with him. We have so many things in common and have a great time when we’re out doing these things we both love to do. However, when we’re just hanging out at my place, watching movies or cooking, the entire time he’s here, he’s compulsively talking and causing me to put up a wall with him. I now find myself not answering the phone when he calls and have cut our weekends short by telling him that I’m tired and want to turn in early (early afternoon) on Sundays, which can be translated into…”please go home now, I’m ready for some alone time!” I finally got the nerve to tell him this weekend in the most loving way I could that his compulsive talking was something I cannot deal with and that I felt like all of our conversations are one-sided. He says he realizes that this is something he needs to work on but then he already forgot what we talked about and started rambling again and again and again today. I have even acted as if he didn’t just say something to me and sat here staring at the TV as if I were here alone just to let him know that I’m done listening to him talk! THAT doesn’t even work…he keeps talking! I’m going to give it some more time because I really love and care about him but if he can’t control his talking, then for my sanity’s sake, I will have to end the relationship. I hope it doesn’t come to that but what else can I do? Thanks for such a great post!
I am so glad to read everyone’s post here!!!! I just finished enduring ONE WEEK with a compulsive talker….UGH!!!!!! I can’t believe I made it through with but one impatient, perhaps rude, moment. This person is a dear associate of my partner. She’s hard-working, salt of the earth, caring, incredibly reliable mother….but…..she never — stops—talking!!!!!! It’s like being with a dragon. Either they’re burning your face off with words words words, or they say nothing if you try to ‘engage’ them in a 2-way conversation! I felt very guilty for feeling this way, as my partner loves this person. I know I don’t have to repeat myself any more, but let me say it again, I felt so OVERWHELMED by her, I made sure I had quiet time EACH morning to prepare for the rest of the day w/her!!! (She was visiting from out of town). Just wanted to also share that, I’ve been researching ‘compulsive talking’ and what makes most sense to me, as for a cause of it, is that talking is actually a way that that person deals with his/her anxiety. Humans are vastly complicated, I guess….*sigh*.
It’s sad because you care for this person but his compulsive talking is sapping you both of a strong relationship.
It does sound like you are trying to resolve this issue and I hope your partner is able to change his behavior. Maybe the two of you can have a code that says “lovingly” that you are not available to listen anymore. This will only work if your partner is ready to change.
I wish we could help the compulsive talkers in our lives, but they are the only ones who can change their behavior. Our response is to take care of ourselves and not endure abusive behavior…compulsive talking is abusive.
Does anyone have a solution that they have found to handle complusive talkers?
I am the comopulsive talker
( On the length of this, it might be an example :/ )
Coming in six months late on this topic because, after decades of compulsive talking, this is the first time I’ve Googled the topic.
I may be more blessed than many who could lay claim to being one however because I’ve had significant psychological problems which have required me to look inward and – to borrow from a quote on your ‘About’ page – to make myself mine.
I am now looking back on life and this I would like to add to your blog:
For each person who feels not heard, say ‘I don’t feel heard’ and respectfully say why. It doesn’t matter if the other person does or doesn’t intend to do that. It only maters that you be heard. With knowledge of the context, say why. You might be surprised at the level of real communication that it fosters, even after years of living with such a person. It might be an opportunity that has not occurred before, or your frustration stayed too high. If you’ve given up on being heard, then you’ve given up on what the relationship can be.
For each person who feels manipulated by someone hogging the discussion, say very simply ‘This discussion feels out of balance’. Respectully, say why.
It is possible to be honest and respectful if you genuinely feel respectful, so find a reason to be respectful. It is enough that the compulsive talker is a human being.
Talking is so easy. Communicating is so hard because it invokes true intimacy. Speaking as a person terrified of that, compulsive talking (along with other defences) has proved invaluable. Yes, it has been to my detriment as well as to others’, but it achieved its purpose.
Did I intend to hurt others? No
Did I intend to keep them away? Yes
Do I regret keeping them away? To be honest, the fear in me continues. Excepting the times I feel safe, I’d have to say no.
We give others much more credit for their power over us when we say ‘I couldn’t do otherwise, at least without causing hurt’. Be heard truly, respectfully and then, if hurt there is, it was there before you arrived. Be the start of the healing. Say why.
Every day, each time, be heard and respectfully say why.
When you must give up saying why, with a look that says regret rather than anger, turn away and give back to yourself that space which could not be given to you. If you leave in anger, then it is because you gave the other that power. If you leave with regret, you are not broken, and neither are they.
Thanks for your insight. There are always two sides to a situation.
You are right…honesty is powerful to share with another person. If I don’t feel heard, then I need to share that I’m not being heard. If we were to be more honest in a loving (respectful)manner, how different would our relationships be just maybe the world would be a better place to live?
I wish you the best on your journey as it seems to me you are finding your own personal wisdom. I thank you for sharing a part of it.
Wow. My daughter (one of twins who just turned 11) has been a compulsive talker her whole life. I never wanted to make her feel bad about who she is, and I thought she might grow out of it, but…it’s getting worse. And I don’t want it to get in the way of her friendships and relationships, as it is already getting in the way of our family and her schoolwork. I’ve tried telling my daughter that my ears are tired, to no avail. There is little doubt in my mind that this is a medical condition, I don’t believe there is anything about this behavior that is within my daughter’s control. As her mother I am now investigating treatment options, and came across this website. SadlyButTrue, thank you so much for your insights and suggestions. And Pat thank you for a safe and honest discussion.
The worse part of this the person closest to them ends up playing the role of therapist. I worked in a field in mental health where I basically played the role as a therapist The person I’m with is a educated male fifties he is a compulsive talker, and thinker. He talks at people, not with them. His children are given a lecture on subjects just like they are in college with little regard to their responses. My sense is that having a parent with this issue is basically draining and can be damaging to children in ways they may not realize until later in life when they have relationships with the opposite sex or they see a therapist. Many times with his kids he is not aware of their responses so his daughter will say how many times have I told you I haveE taken physics..then I ask “Are you present and aware of her response?” I read that compulsive talkers have unresolved pain from childhood and that it was so great… that a mechanism is created to deal with the pain.. Abused children try to escape the pain and may go deep into the mind, and can’t find their way back …that is why the lack of awareness in conversations with others, the inappropriate responses to the store clerk and not being able to pick up on obvious verbal or non verbal cues of other peoples or even sense the vibe of a situation. The person I’m with is an informationaholic it is because he never felt good enough as a child so he must learn more and more still trying to prove to his mother he is worthy of praise, love, admiration…but the problem he is not aware of it so he is hardwired in this way in order to escape the present. Behind the incessant compulsive talking,is insecurity, anxiety and neediness simply wanting to be heard and that is why when they tell stories that wind this way and that way with all the details because it is a way to keep peoples attention because of their childlike neediness but this is a from of energy vampirism it drains people around them as everyones eyes become glazed over. I’m trying to bring him back to reality…being present is not easy In fact I’ve noticed he does not read non- verbal or verbal cues. He was badly abused by this mother physically and verbally to force him to be perfect well he suffers from anxiety, panic and appears nervous at time socially awkward , indecisive and suffer from all types of digestion issues which usually have to do in this case with stuffing emotions in fact abused children brains may no longer create chemicals they need to regulate the brain it as if he gets stuck in anxiety.He says my whole life is “anxiety” So he shakes when he sleeps and memorized volumes of information, history, economics, politics etc… and will even repeat this information in his sleep! Song get stuck in his head that he can’t get out of his head, so he will be humming or singing it is his sleep I know this is OCD ! I suggested that He read the Power of Now and chants mantras, meditate and goes to a therapist. This is all to change the neuropathways in the brain..which he has been doing and I have seen a change! This typs change takes a seriously motivated person to pursue this path because the brain ( what gets fired get wired (craves anxiety because it is all the brain has ever known so the brain is hardwired by repetive past behaviours. We have two office spaces in our home which is great because it allows me the space I need to do my work and for him time to be away from people and be in silence!
Life is wayyy toooo short for me to be trapped by a compulsive talker.
I have endured my last. I bless them and wish them well, but they will find other victim.
Wow! Everyone, this has been extremely helpful. I’m 32, soon to be 33, and I’ve been with my girlfriend for over a year. When we first started dating, I enjoyed being around her despite moving the phone away from my ear while she was talking with me. I actually made a joke out of it for quite a while. Unfortunately, I didn’t know that this was a real problem until I moved in with her. I’m now at a point where I feel irritated simply by looking at her. Don’t get me wrong, she’s one of the sweetest, kind-hearted people I know…but…I feel my ear has had enough. With the advise I’ve found on your site, I’m going to try to gently bring her to recognition, since I really don’t think she’s even aware of the problem. Unfortunately, if things don’t change, I won’t be able to stick it out. Wish me luck, and I’ll try to keep you posted. Much appreciation 🙂
The person you described sounds a lot like my father. What would you suggest that the man’s daughters do to deal with his lecture-like “talking at?” Or with his inability to pick up on verbal or non-verbal cues, including inappropriate “talking at” to people like cashiers? How can a child maintain a positive relationship with a person like this without having it continue to be abusive (continuous “talking at” is a form of abuse), unrewarding, or even socially embarrassing?
In reply to catt, December 6th, 2011:
I’m a compulsive talker and I have to say that I think your interpretation is wrong, at least for my case. Many of your words and phrases are similar to an article on the web by Dr. Hurd, but he was also wrong. A good article, if you really want to try to understand, is http://www.uky.edu/~bostrom/compulsive.html. Also, SadlyButTrue, June 1st, 2011 has hit the nail on the head — Great advice for those on the receiving end!
In my case, I often find myself talking compulsively. It’s difficult to stop myself. But I think the root cause is that I live alone, and it’s hard to always keep everything inside. Then when I get together with other people, I just want to share my thoughts. Sometimes I share too much — like, I share everything that went through my mind since the last time I had a conversation with someone. It’s truly embarrassing, but it’s not a sign of insecurity or the need to prove anything. Sometimes I think I’m just so lonely and my social skills are out of practice from being on my own so much of the time.
Here is another excellent (and brief) explanation that is grounded in research:
Thanks for your honesty and I do realize that most compulsive talkers are good people with a difficult habit. So what would you suggest others do to have a more give/take conversation with compulsive talkers?
Most people want to treat others with respect and sometimes just don’t how to take care of themselves as well as be respectful to the other person. Your input can be helpful to others.
Thanks for sharing.
I have just spent 3 days with a compulsive talker, the husband of a friend from out of town. I have known several people like this in my long life. This time, it will take me a month to recover.
Say all you want about anxiety and how it leads a person to babble on non-stop. I believe the constant talking and paying no attention to what the listener has to say or what might be interesting to the listener is evidence of self-centeredness of the highest order.
I am a great, great listener. No more. I am done with people whose needs are somehow more important than mine.