Overtalking: When Words Take the Lead

Last week, we had a lively discussion at the office about “overtalking.” I sat quietly, watching my colleagues debate, trying to understand what exactly overtalking means and how it happens. As I observed them, I made connections with my private life, work life, and friendships.

I realized that overtalking isn’t new to me. In fact, it’s quite common in my everyday life. Overtalking is when someone talks too much or too long about something. Some refer to such people as talkaholics. The word ‘talkaholism’ was coined in 1993 and you can actually take a questionnaire to derive how much overtalking you do. Do you think you may be overtalking? Take the quiz here.

Overtalking can be divided into many smaller categories. As a quieter person who listens carefully and observes everything, dealing with overtalkers can be exhausting. It often leads me to retreat into my shell, as I don’t have the energy or desire to confront them. This is something I need to work on; many times I get trapped in conversations I don’t want to be in, simply because I lack the courage to say anything.

Types of Overtalking

Someone might be seen as an overtalker if they interrupt you while talking and take over the conversation. Another might start explaining something but then change topics a thousand times, never returning to the original point. There’s also the type who initiates a conversation and monopolizes it, not giving others a chance to speak. These different kinds of overtalking often happen without malicious intent; the person might just be excited or unaware of what they’re doing.

Let’s break down some of these types of overtalking from the perspective of a peacekeeper, who doesn’t talk much and finds it challenging to be in conversations with them.

The Conversation Hijacker

This person interrupts your speech, getting too excited to add something and then taking over, never letting you finish. Sound familiar? These people often think out loud and may not fully listen to you, possibly because they’re bored and want to keep the conversation flowing. They don’t mean to make you feel bad, but they do.

My response? I usually stay silent around them. It’s already hard for me to initiate a conversation, and I don’t have the energy to get interrupted and then try to find a spot in the jungle of words to continue my speech. But here’s some advice for me and anyone else who relates: stand your ground. Politely say, “Hey, I wasn’t done stating my idea.” It might take courage, but you won’t be seen as rude. Instead, it is much more likely that the interrupter will be perceived that way.

The Rambling Storyteller

I have a friend like this. When she calls, we might talk for hours, and only in the last minute will I learn why she actually called. She’ll start with something intriguing like, “You’ll never imagine what happened to me today,” but then take ages to get to the actual point. She’ll detail her entire day, from brushing her teeth onwards, in a never-ending story. I’m perceived as a good listener, and I think I am, but this can be exhausting.

Sometimes, you just want things to finish, to get to the point fast. For me, the biggest struggle is to say something about it. I always fear that the sender is too excited to share something with me and is waiting for my reaction. What if I interrupt or block someone’s important thoughts? I don’t want to be that person. I’m pretty sure all of us have a similar memory of wanting to share something exciting, only to feel dismissed.

overtalking

The Topic Weaver

This person sticks to the topic initially but then branches off into numerous other subjects. They have so many thoughts and experiences that they get sidetracked. While I enjoy deep conversations, the key to a good discussion is returning to the original topic. Otherwise, what’s the point?

I find these people too chaotic and hard to follow. I wouldn’t take the initiative to start a conversation with them. I might seek advice from them, and they might give me a thousand examples from many different perspectives, leaving me questioning why I needed that advice in the first place. Sometimes, I just need a simple yes or no answer. As someone who has difficulty making decisions, the more complicated the answer, the more I’ll avoid asking next time.

One approach that I have been nervously trying out lately is to re-ask the original question slightly differently, or to simply use the last thing they said to, somehow, link it back to the intended topic of discussion.

The Nervous Natterer

I’m smiling right now, as I know someone like this really well. In social gatherings where they feel uncomfortable, they start overtalking to hide their awkwardness. They might talk too loudly, make excessive jokes, and try to “break the ice.” While their intentions are good, they can come across as too loud or interruptive. Sometimes, silence is perfectly fine.

My thoughts on this one? Read the room before you enter. Try to understand what people are doing at that moment and how they are behaving. It might feel weird, but in reality, it’s just you feeling that way. Maybe the conversation will flow by itself. If not, make an initiative to “break the ice” and see how it’s absorbed. Read the room again. The key is to be self-conscious and think of your behaviors before you act.

The Me-Monologue

This person loves to talk about themselves—their memories, learnings, and experiences. They might feel unheard in their personal life, so when they get a chance, they talk a lot.
While these people might give you some really good advice and insights, it gets tiring when someone just talks for hours and doesn’t give you a chance to converse. It really tends to feel like unintended egocentrism.

I often enjoy listening to people and grabbing interesting topics that can help me grow or adapt. But everything has a limit. When it’s reached, it’s over. The next time you have a conversation with that person, you might avoid them or stop truly paying attention to what they are saying.

The Leader Monologue

This happens when someone has a lead role—a coach, a boss, a teacher, someone who holds a higher position than you. Being a leader doesn’t mean you need to talk constantly or not give others a chance to express their ideas and opinions. True leadership involves listening carefully and considering everyone’s thoughts, problems, and ideas.

The challenge for a leader is not to dominate but to make final decisions while considering everyone’s input. That’s how a team works. Your leader might be the most experienced and knowledgeable person in the room, which is why they should have the skills to listen and decide, sharing their knowledge when appropriate, but not overtalking.

These are just my thoughts and reflections based on my experiences. This doesn’t mean they are right or wrong; it’s just how I see things through my lens. Can you relate to any of these types? I must admit that I sometimes see myself as the rambling storyteller. When in a safe place and talking to my friends, I might give all the small details that might not be related at all to the topic before getting to the point.

I believe that all of us have a dose of something. Talking is a need, and it’s natural to sometimes overtalk. We just need to be aware and self-conscious about it. There are some occasions when overtalking doesn’t fit, as it might stress and agitate the people around you.

Victoria Sofokleous

Victoria is the office Harmonizer, bringing serenity and balance to the team. With a background in education and a natural gift for caregiving, Vic, as she's nicknamed, seamlessly blends empathy with curiosity to discover creative solutions.

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