When Someone Monopolizes a Conversation

I had a question come up during the 30-Day Intentional Communication Challenge that I know others have asked themselves at some point or another.

The question: Is there some adage or basic rule when a loved one or an associate monopolizes a conversation? Talking without taking a break can happen at the family dinner table or at a meeting where I sense that myself and others may be “tuning them out.”

The answer:

It’s important to know if it’s really necessary for you to say something at all. The question you want to ask yourself is,  If I don’t say something is it going to affect how I interact with this person? Will it have me speaking badly about him/her behind their back? Have me start lying to him/her? If that’s the case, then you would want to say something – likely after the fact, so that it doesn’t happen again. After the fact would look something like …

“When you speak to the team during meetings I’ve wanted to contribute but haven’t felt comfortable. Is it possible at the next meeting to open it up for questions and discussion?”

“When you were speaking last night at dinner I felt frustrated. I know that wasn’t your intention. The next time we’re all at the dinner table could you let everyone have a turn to talk.”

 

During dinner with a family member or in a meeting, the practice is to allow the other person to express themselves and when you notice your want to drift off and thoughts about how they are speaking too long, or your need to interrupt, notice them and come back and see the person in front of you as someone you care for, respect, and want to connect with; as someone trying to share something. Become curious about what they are saying. When there is a natural break, you can then connect to what they are saying or steer the conversation differently. If you need to interrupt to say something in the moment to keep the conversation healthy (so that you don’t get passive aggressive, lash out) then it would be something like:

  • Facilitator role: “I’m going to interrupt you and open up the discussion to see if anyone else has input they’d like to share.”
  • Facilitator role: “I’m going to redirect the conversation …”
  • “You’ve been talking for a while, and made some good points, I’d like to hear what John has to say.”
  • “I’d like to turn the conversation into one everyone can participate in.”
  • “I hear what you’re saying. Does anyone else have thoughts or opinions on this?”

 

Let me know how the above goes for you. The best practice here is to have a conversation after the event so that you can prevent this type of behavior from happening again.

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Showing 3 comments
  • Shelley

    Thanks so much for the clearly written, thoughtful article. Great specific examples. I wonder, how would one handle a friend who habitually takes over a conversation (in person or on the phone)

  • Jane

    What a great topic! It’s such a common event and I love the respect for the Long Talker that’s behind this advice.

  • KC

    Those are very helpful examples and insights. I love your noticing and seeing the “person in front of you as someone you care for, respect, and want to connect with; as someone trying to share something.” Thank you, Cynthia!!
    I, like Shelley, “wonder, how would one handle a friend who habitually takes over a conversation (in person or on the phone).” I’m looking forward to some more ideas on this.

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