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Kindness: Change your life and make the world a kinder place

Can you get someone to stop talking without feeling and appearing rude? Yes. There are ways to do it kindly, writes Gill Hasson.

Gill Hasson Writer

WE’VE ALL COME across people who, even if they’re not being rude or critical, repeat the same stories and anecdotes or talk about topics in needless detail. People who talk too much or are negative, dull and boring usually fail to recognise the frustrated, resentful feelings of their listeners.

Typically, you, the listener, get so bored or wound up you either stop listening altogether or you get so irritated and frustrated that your resentment builds and you react harshly and rudely.

Can you get someone to stop talking without feeling and appearing rude? Yes. There are ways to do it kindly.

Doing it kindly

If you know someone is a talker, and you’ll have a hard time getting away, state early on that you can’t stop for long. You could say ‘Great to see you, but I only have a few minutes to talk’. But if you do have to stay put, rather than switch off, listen. Listening for a reasonable amount of time might tell you why they are talking so much.

While some people talk a lot because they’re self-centred, some people talk because they are nervous or have something bothering or upsetting them. It’s not always obvious, but if that is the case – if they’re bothered about something – you can decide whether to drop everything and listen or suggest a more convenient time to listen and talk with them.

If, though, the other person just seems to like the sound of their own voice, by listening and closely following what they’ve said, you can pick up on it and then take the subject in a different direction or bring the ‘conversation’ to a close.

Be ready to jump in

Make eye contact and say their name. Stand up if you were sitting down. When the other person takes a breath or in the brief moment when they finish a sentence, interrupt by saying their name and in a firm but calm tone say: ‘I’d like to say something …’, or ‘I’m just going to interrupt …’, or ‘I’m going to stop you there …’.

Add some experience of your own that will confirm that you’ve listened to what they’ve told you and, at the same time, allow you to take control of the conversation. For example: ‘Well Lewis, it sounds like you made the right decision to leave your job and work freelance …’ and before he can say anything else, change the subject.

Just go straight into it without drawing breath: ‘… I’ve sometimes thought of doing the same but I do enjoy my job at Smith and Jones, although I’ve often wanted to…’ and take the conversation where you want it to go. If you then want to get away, just continue by saying ‘Well I’ve got to get on now …’.

Widen the circle

If you’re in a group, try directing questions to someone else. Say, for example: ‘Amy, Lewis has been telling me that going freelance was the best thing he ever did. What do you think; have you ever thought of going freelance?’

Or you might say: ‘Lewis, do come with me, I want to introduce you to Josh/go to the bar/get some food.’ This tactic makes them feel included and gives you the chance to take your leave. Be nice.

You’ll feel OK about ending the conversation and the other person will be happier to let you go if you say something kind and positive. ‘Thanks, you’ve given me some useful tips. I’ll certainly remember them if I do ever decide to go freelance!’ Or simply say ‘It’s been great talking to you, but I am going to go now’.

Have limits

Telling someone to ‘shut up’, even politely, is not easy. But if someone is being offensive, aggressive, or even taking too much of your time, you need to take a stand for yourself.

If you are constantly being talked over, recognise that you must be more direct. Have courage! Make eye contact and speak clearly. Raise your voice if you need to be heard, but try to keep your tone level and steady. Or excuse yourself and walk away.

This is an edited extract from Kindness: Change Your Life and Make the World a Kinder Place, by Gill Hasson (published by Capstone). Gill Hasson is a careers coach with over 20 years’ experience in the areas of personal and career development. 

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Gill Hasson  / Writer

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