Not only do introverts have a right to speak up, but they also have the capacity to do it gracefully and confidently.
I have a friend who cannot stop talking. I mean it — we once had dinner, with a long wait for a table followed by drinks and a three-course meal, and in those two hours or so, I think I said about 20 words. Every other second of that experience was filled with her chatter.
And here’s the thing: I love that friend. She’s great. But I know I have to handle her in small doses, when I’m mentally prepared to do so; if I run into her unplanned, I can’t do it. I’ll be polite, but I basically have to flee the scene.
Because I’m an introvert and my friend is an over-chatter. An excessive talker. A chatterbox.
An Overly Chatty Person Eats up an Introvert’s Energy
Often, when an introvert meets a chatterbox, the introvert feels at their mercy — we can feel the endless talking gobbling up our energy… but we don’t want to be rude or hurt their feelings, so we stay there, held captive.
But we don’t have to.
In reality, introverts not only have a right to speak up, but they have the capacity to do it gracefully and confidently. It just takes practice.
So if you’re an introvert who’s ever been the target of an overly chatty person, here are four steps you can take to make sure it never happens again.
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4 Steps to Dealing with Overly Chatty People
1. Consider the context — is the person ignoring your cues that they’re talking too much?
Not all excessive talkers are the same. Some people just prattle on regardless of who they’re talking to, like a nervous tic. Ask yourself: Does this person seem anxious? Are they talking nonstop without any interest in my reaction? Do they give way too much detail on very simple stories?
If the answer is yes, this person is having a one-sided conversation where you are not needed — which means you can disengage. Go ahead and daydream, let your mind wander, and give the occasional nod or “uh-huh.” You may be surprised at how much of your limited introvert battery you conserve when you simply let go of viewing the conversation as two-sided. You are not needed here; you are simply a prop! Unlike your chatty friend, introverts don’t like talking just for the sake of talking.
If this seems rude, remember: The excessive talker is the one being rude. They are the one ignoring your cues, they are the one using you as a target for their thoughts, and they are the one being inconsiderate of their conversation partner. If zoning out comes across as rude at all — which it likely won’t — you are merely returning the rudeness to sender.
2. If you don’t have time to hear them go on and on, say so.
For years, I fell into the trap of thinking that if I were to tell someone I was too busy to talk, I’d come across as rude. That’s not the case.
In reality, any respectful conversation partner wants to talk only if both parties have time and are into it, and they will understand if you’re in a rush or too busy. If that’s the case, just say so! Here is some language you can use:
- “I’d love to talk, but I’m in a hurry. Let’s catch up next time.”
- “Hey, can you shoot me a text and we’ll get together soon? I’m running really late to get to __.”
- “Oh my God, I haven’t seen you in forever! Look, I’m running to do __ right now, but do you have my number? Text me and we should plan something!”
- “I’m sorry, but I can’t talk right now.”
Most of the time, overly chatty people will not actually text you to follow up. They are opportunistic and may have only been talking to you because you were the nearest target — you might not see follow-up from them.
Regardless, I can not emphasize this enough: The direct approach is the best approach whenever you are truly pressed for time. Want to really make it work? End your statement on a down tone (the opposite of how you raise your tone when asking a question — try it out and you’ll find yourself sounding like a CEO). Then pair it with starting to walk away and wave, even before they’ve responded. It works every time!
Do you ever struggle to know what to say?
As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.
3. Use (not so) subtle signals that now’s not a good time for you to talk.
Introverts often think it should be obvious they don’t want to talk when, really, their body language says they are listening, interested, and present (usually because they are being polite).
So it’s fine to try some subtle, non-confrontational signals if you want, assuming you’re not in an extreme hurry — but they need to be the signals that actually work. Here are a few options:
- Look toward the thing you are supposed to be doing instead. That could be the door, a person you need to talk to, your laptop/phone/book, a movie, or almost anything that might demand your attention.
- Hold your gaze elsewhere. Here’s the trick: If glancing at something else doesn’t work after one or two tries, hold your gaze on it. Once you look away from a conversation partner for a steady two to three seconds toward something else, you will see their head turn as they realize what’s grabbing your attention.
- Flatten your tone and shorten your answers. As long as you pretend to be interested in the conversation, two problems will only keep getting worse. First, the other person will think they have your permission to go on. Second, you will burn through your introvert battery. Instead, use verbal cues to indicate your mind is elsewhere. Stop adding emotional tones to your voice or trying to formulate answers, and try flat, monotone “hh-huhs” instead. You may worry this will seem rude, but in reality, it causes the other person to become bored with the conversation or, at worst, to worry that they themselves are the boring one (which, let’s be honest, they are). They’ll then lose interest after a minute or two.
- Pause before responding. When someone responds quickly and fluidly, it indicates they’re engaged, interested, and open. By contrast, if the person you’re talking to allows a long pause to pass before responding, it creates distance and authority. This is why pauses are used in negotiating — the person who is not in a hurry to respond has all the power. In a conversation, a long pause makes the other person evaluate whether what they are saying is worth everyone’s time — which is exactly what you want. It forces self-reflection.
4. Be completely honest and tell them that you need some alone time.
If the subtle cues aren’t working — or if you’re just not in the mood to use them — be honest and say that you’re an introvert. For example:
- “It’s been fun talking, but I’m kind of an introvert and I need to get going. Thanks for the conversation.”
- “Hey, I’m actually a huge introvert, and I really need some alone time right now. I’m going to go back to my book.”
- “This was fun, but I think my introvert battery is running out. I should probably get back to what I was doing.”
While it may not be easy to tell an overly chatty person they’re talking too much, do your best in sticking to your boundaries and battery bandwidth. The more you practice doing so, the easier it will become.
You might like:
- Introverts Don’t Like Talking Just for the Sake of Talking — And That’s OK
- 7 Unintentionally ‘Rude’ Things Introverts Do
- How Introverts Can Set Boundaries With Overly Chatty Coworkers
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