What should our relationship be with people who talk too much or otherwise annoy us? Should we write them off as too self-absorbed and move on? Or is there another way to relate? Today’s episode explores this issue.A listener in Florida contacted me recently about a problem they were having that I sometimes have: People who talk too much. People who talk AT you, rather than WITH you. “It is so very draining,” this listener commented. I can certainly relate.

A few days ago I was at at a coffee shop waiting for my friend David to show up to help me with my web site. The place was crowded and the only empty table was next to a group of 3 guys, one of whom was very loud and who talked non-stop. He was holding court for his two friends, who could not have talked if they had wanted to. He had captured all the available air time for himself, and wasn’t going to release any of it for anyone. Watching his friends being talked AT like this made me wonder, “Why do they put up with him?”

While waiting for my friend, I just wanted peace and quiet so I could think. It was quite annoying to be so close to what seemed to be this self-absorbed man who appeared to be rolling over his two friends with his inexhaustible amount of verbiage.

Like my listener friend in Florida, we all know people like this. They can be exhausting.

When they are not talking about themselves they may pause to ask a question, but then very soon turn the spotlight of the conversation back on to them. It’s like playing tennis where the talker serves the ball, you as the listener volley a response back, but then instead of hitting the ball back to you, the talker keeps it on his side of the net.

How do yo relate with a person like this? Do you avoid them? Do you fight for air time? This is the subject of today’s show, How do I relate to people who talk too much?

I don’t know if this would work for our listener friend from Florida, but in my better moments, when I’m not my usual self, I would begin to deal with this annoying problem of someone talking too much by focusing on ME. That’s right, with ME. I would deal with ME first.

I would do so by asking myself a bunch of questions. Because often the solution to our difficulties often arise out of the questions we ask. Let’s use my recent coffee shop experience with the dominating talker as an example. Here is what I need to ask myself in situations like this.

1. Why does this annoying person bother me so much?

The two friends of Mr. Talker Man were obviously not bothered by him. Why am I? They chose to meet to meet up with him at the coffee shop, so there must have been some perceived benefit in getting together with him. But why did it bother me and not them?While they had a choice to be in his presence, I did not. The only available table for me was right next to him. Could my lack of a reasonable choice be why I was bothered so much? I think there’s more to it than just that.

2. What need do I have in this situation that is not being met?

The need for peace and calm so I can think and reflect. A busy coffee shop may not be the best place for this. So it may be my fault for having this unrealistic expectation. Maybe what I needed was to at least have my need for calm and quiet to be acknowledged. But then how would Mr. Talker Man, or anyone, know that’s what I needed? I didn’t even know until I thought about it later.

3. Does this situation trigger something else going on inside of me? Does it remind me of something else? If so, what is it?

Yeah, I’ve been in conversations with people who talk AT me like our Florida listener. Where I feel like I’ve been pushed into a corner with a tsunami of words. Where I don’t get a turn to talk. Maybe that’s it, I want a turn. I don’t want to hear a monologue, I’d like a dialog. Maybe this situation reminds me of other conversations in the past where a dominating talker has little or no interest in what I have to say. Maybe this event is just triggering my feelings of being marginalized in other areas of my life. Hmm.

4. Could it be that what is annoying me about this person is a flaw I have myself? Is it possible I’m not much different than the person who annoys me?

Ouch. Yeah, I can recall leaving a conversation with friends when I’ve been so animated, and realize later I talked way too much. I’m going have to try harder next time.

Having done some self-examination of myself, it would now be helpful to consider the annoying person, the dominant talker, by asking a bunch of questions of ourself about the other person.

5. How did they get this way, with talking too much or other annoying behavior?

What was their upbringing like? Large family? Did they have no voice? Did they have to fight for air time?

6. What is the payoff for the person to dominate conversations like they do?

Every behavior has a pay off, some benefit to it, otherwise we would not engage in that behavior. I wonder what it is for dominating talkers. I wonder it it could be he needs to be the center of attention to feel good about himself. I wonder if he’s afraid of people getting too close to him relationally, that he takes over the air waves to protect himself from others getting to know him.

7. Could talking too much be a strategy they developed years ago when they were younger – that worked for them then. But now it’s doing just the opposite?

We sometimes do this when we’ve come from a dysfunctional childhood. We developed skills that helped us survive back then, but we continue to use them in the here and now as adults, even though they’re no longer appropriate or helpful.

8. Is this the one area where they can exert a measure of control?

Perhaps they lack control in other areas of their life, and this is the one part of their life where they do have control.

9. Is the talker just self-absorbed, or is he just lonely?

Peggy Noonan, in a recent Wall Street Journal article about the manufactured political strife in our country, quoted the Irish saying, “Contention is better than Loneliness.” We do all kinds of things to combat the loneliness many of us feel. Here’s an example.      [The Bible study story with “Mary”]

It would have been easy to write Mary off as just self-absorbed. But there was something deeper going on. She was just lonely.  It’s a lot trickier when it comes to dealing with our friends who talk too much, or otherwise annoy us.

10. How can I be more like friends of the talker and embrace who the talker is rather than want to flee from him?

11. Would setting a boundary with people like this be a good idea, or would it be just an excuse to be self-protective and distance myself?

12. How much energy do I have available for this relationship? If I invest more fully in this relationship, will that take me away from other relationships that are of higher priority?

13. Should I have a heart to heart talk with my friend, about what they’re doing that annoys me? Story of Tom and  “Let me ask you this….”

14. Why is it hard for me to look upon people like this with compassion, like “Sheep without a Shepherd” like Jesus does ? How can I be more like Jesus?

15. How can I show grace and cut the person some slack?

Before I close, here’s the he main take-away from today’s episode, our show in a sentence

People who annoy us often expose hidden issues within us, that when exposed and dealt with, can lead us to more fulfilling relationships with people.

Here’s a way you can respond to today’s show

Think of an annoying person in your life. Ask yourself the questions I suggest, and see if it doesn’t move the needle of your compassion meter just a little more into the positive zone. You’ll find those questions in the show notes.

Coming up next week

I will talk about the most important relationship of all. And as if that was not enough, I’ll answer the most common question I get about this podcast: Who is Carol? Be sure to tune in next week to find out.

I hope you found today’s episode beneficial in considering the issue raised from our listener in Florida, How do I relate to people who talk too much. I’d love to hear from more of you about relationship issues or questions on your mind…as long as they’re not dating questions. I’ll leave that to the gazillion of other podcasts that focus on that. You can send an email to me at john@caringforothers.org.

Finally, If you’d like to help see this podcast grow, please write a brief review in iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. I would greatly appreciate that as it will help the word about what we are doing..

Relationship Quote of the Week

The only questions that really matter are the ones you ask yours      ~ Ursula K. Le Guin

Well that’s it for now, I look forward to connecting with you next week. Bye for now.