Ask a Therapist: How do I politely leave a conversation with a chatterbox?

Ask a Therapist Question:

"What should l do when I get corned by the same chatterbox on a weekly basis? This woman loves to talk - mostly about herself—and I get stuck listening for at least 15 minutes. It`s very difficult to cut her off or end the conversation. How can I put a stop to this?"

Answer from Therapist Anastasia Pollock: We have all likely been in the situation before where we have that friend, co-worker, family member, or neighbor who corners us and mercilessly talks one’s ear off while the recipient feels trapped.

Step one in this situation is to try to understand why a person might do this. Some reasons include:

Loneliness and feeling that they have no one else to talk to

Insecurity

Being unaware and oblivious about how their actions impact others

Any one or all of the above may apply to this situation. It is helpful to have some degree of understanding and empathy first because as we approach the situation, it is helpful to keep in mind that as annoying as this person may be, he or she is a person with feelings. That being said, having any or all of the above issues does not mean you have to continue to allow this person to commandeer your time.

There are a few ways we can manage this situation. We will start with more passive ways and work up to the more direct approaches.

  1. Evade: Have your phone handy and pretend to get a phone call as the person walks up to you; pretend to be running late for something as he/she walks up; keep yourself busy and occupied as much as you can; avoid areas you might see the person, etc.

Pros:

You can sometimes avoid a conversation without having to directly address the problem, thus avoiding hurt feelings in the beginning.

Cons:

You will have to put in energy to avoid the person, which may not always be possible.

The person may eventually catch on and be offended.

2. Interrupt

Many have been taught it is rude to interrupt but I dare say it is also rude to monopolize a conversation. Pipe up and say something like “I’m so sorry to interrupt but I have a deadline and just have to get back to my desk.”

Pros:

This is a more direct approach.

You have a good chance of getting away.

Cons:

The person may or may not respond and may keep talking, leaving you to decide whether to walk away (and possibly offend) or continue to listen.

There is a higher chance of offending the person.

  1. Have a direct conversation before the next “chat attack”.

Prior to the next interaction, you can have a direct conversation about the issue. You may say something like “I think you are a very nice person but I am simply not available to chat. I really just need to focus on work when I am here.”

Pros: You will certainly get your point across this way and likely the person will stop talking to you.

Cons: You may hurt the person’s feelings and cause contention in the office or whatever environment in which you interact with this person.

To see more from Anastasia go here.