She talks too much

Recently, Mary and I visited in the home of a neighbor who lives two blocks away. It was the first time we had spent time with her. It was just a friendly get-to-know-you visit.

In our 40-minute conversation, she talked about 90% of the time and mostly about herself. Occasionally, I interrupted her to say something about us, but the conversation quickly resumed its singular focus. 

A few weeks later, I mentioned to our next-door neighbor that Mary and I had met and visited with the lady. Unprompted by me, he said, “She talks a lot. Really, too much.”  

Evidently, this lady (and it could just as well have been a man) has a persistent, probably lifelong, irritating habit of talking too much. Has anyone ever talked to her about this? She is now widowed but was married for 40 years. Did her husband ever push back on this? Perhaps he did but she didn’t listen, or she just didn’t think it was an important enough issue to change, or change proved to be too difficult.

Now, let me use this single incident to introduce a larger issue that affects all of us. (I’m not just picking on those who talk excessively). 

To one degree or another, we all lack self-awareness. One of the hardest things in life is to see ourselves as others see us. We’re unaware of our idiosyncrasies. People aren’t put off by our good ones (though they may be amused), but they’re repelled by our bad ones. 

Perhaps people are hesitant to be honest with us, or they’ve confronted us so many times, with no effect, that they’ve given up. It takes a brave and true friend to speak truth to us.

Here’s an exercise I recommend we all do. Approach two or three people who know you well and say, “Please do me a favor. After taking some time to think about it, share with me several areas of my life that need to change. I promise not to be defensive; I’ll just listen. I may ask a few questions because I want to fully understand what you’re saying, but I promise not to argue.”

Another practical application of this lesson is for us to develop the boldness and courage to confront people about their unproductive personal behaviors, particularly if they seem to be unaware of them.  

32 Replies to “She talks too much”

  1. I think just about everyone every one talk too much about themselves. I have encountered very few people who don’t!

    1. Stanley, many people do struggle with excessive talking. Certainly, we all have our foibles.
      Thanks for taking the time to respond. Don

  2. Don…Great exercise, albeit maybe a little scary.

    Can I add something that may be obvious? Ask yourself if you have lots of friends. Do people gravitate to you when at a group function? I’m not talking about the jokester “life of the party” person. I’m talking about the genuine personality that others gravitate to because they make you feel good…about yourself, about them, about life. Then I should ask “what can I change in myself to have that affect on others?”

    1. Neil, you bring up a good observation. I’ve heard it phrased: Some people are like magnets – people are drawn to them; other people are hard to be around; it’s hard to be and stay in their “space.” Thanks for responding. Don

  3. Better yet, ask them to identify three things you do that they wish you would continue doing, in addition to the three things you could do better/differently. This is the foundation of reflection: positive reinforcement (keep doing what’s working well) and negative adjustment (try something different for what’s not working). It drives continuous improvement in people and companies and is hugely, hugely powerful, especially over longer periods of time. You’ll find it in the 500 year old “Examen” prayer of the Society of Jesus, the end of meetings with some highly paid strategic consultants, etc. For Christians who have accepted God’s Grace and strive to do His will, to love Him by following His commands (John 14), He gives the Holy Spirit, which provides real-time positive and negative encouragement. As God is omniscient, what could be better than being led by God: encouraged, corrected, instructed, comforted, etc. ?

    1. Patrick, thanks for taking the time to write. I really like your idea of sharing both things you admire and affirm in someone else and some things that could change. And, reciprocity would be important; both individuals share. Take care, Don.

  4. The loquacious lady probably talked her poor husband to death! (Sorry. It’s the first thing that came to mind when you mentioned she’s a widow. ?)

  5. Thank you for this timely email. I will most definitely use your incredibly relevant insight = I feel like God has been whispering in your ear.

    I frequently reminisce about the trip to Israel in March a few years ago. Don & I were divinely place in your group, on your bus. You and Mary impacted our lives and I am so appreciative of your newsletters.

    May God Bless you both

    Karen Flor

    1. Karen, thanks for kind and affirming words. I hope my posts are beneficial.
      I remember our IFL well. We ran today where Jesus walked 🙂 Those trips are terrific.

      Take care, Don

  6. These words really hit home. It definitely takes courage to speak the truth in love to others, but the humility to seek out input from others about myself.
    I find it particularly difficult since I tend to be my own worse critic and may be too hard on myself. I need iron-sharpening-iron friendships who will value me enough to speak the truth to me.

    I wonder would you allow me to post this July 6th thought of yours, in its entirety on Facebook, I believe others might be sharpened as well. But I’ll understand if you prefer me not to do so.
    Thank you so much for your writings, I do appreciate them greatly. We first met you on the Inspiration For Living Alaska Cruise in 2018, when we celebrated our 25th anniversary. We just celebrate our 28th on July 3rd, with the country lighting the usual fireworks to celebrate us ~ just kidding! 😀

    1. Eve, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Please do share the post with others.
      You bring up a good point – some people (perhaps you) are too hard on themselves, in which case they need affirming words.
      I remember our trip to Alaska. Those IFL trips are always terrific.

  7. Hi Don, I’ve appreciated reading your insightful blog posts. But this time, especially given that you are in a leadership position, the grace I will extend is to you. Why? Because, as myself an imperfect Christian, I think we all need grace at times. I happen to think that this just may be one of those times.

    After reading your post and having certain feelings, I passed it to a longtime Christian friend in another state to get her take on it. Mainly because I thought that I may be missing something, reacting in a way. Nope; she had the same reaction. I’ll include snippets from her reply below:

    “Very interesting. First of all, I don’t think a woman like that has a problem as simple as just ‘talking too much.’ And there are many other relational issues and patterns other than ‘talking too much’ that are equally detrimental; many different addictions people can fall prey to – but if they are addicted to food, everyone will know it at first glance because it is on display. But that doesn’t make it worse than other addictions…We all have our own set. Yes, I think his idea of helping each other overcome our blind spots and weak areas is a good idea. But at the same time, we are called to bear each other’s burdens in Galatians and to bear all things in love in 1 Corinthians and help each other with the load we carry in this life. So, I do think he passed judgment pretty quickly. (Maybe we don’t know the whole story). On the other hand, he offers a good reminder to reassess how we are treating other people and how we might be perceived by others. That’s not a bad idea. But unfortunately, many people will read something like this, and it might just increase their critical spirit towards others.”

    Okay, now my personal take on this one…Well, some close to me could find me in there. After all, unlike when in high school, I do tend to speak more freely these days. So, reading this post was a good reminder to be self-aware and not dominate a conversation: to understand more than to be understood. Perhaps a key word here is, “value.” By my speaking, will the recipient receive some type of value? Or if I need input, am I also “there” for the other person, too, when needed? I do ask questions of and truly take an interest in others. I follow up. But I’m also seeing that there could be different seasons in life and different types of friendships. It may not mean that others don’t care: there is only so much time in each day, and we need to prioritize (and why other friends in another state haven’t been in contact).

    And if we’re going to dig a bit deeper here (yes, a longer reply than I had intended–see P4), why is it, do you think, that the woman talked on and on? Is she lonely? Experiencing issues? Longing to be listened to, to be understood? I read, “She is now widowed but was married for 40 years.” When did her husband die? Is she still dealing with that, and dealing with finding a different meaning to her life now? Kids grown, gone, and “fired” from earlier mom responsibilities, leaving her lost? Or, somewhat haughty and in need of understanding others’ perspectives? (Surprise: I’ve found that most in that boat are actually insecure).

    This post may be like walking on a tightrope: a tough balance at times. Still, good food for thought.

    1. Hi Jan. Thanks for responding. And, I enjoyed reading your friend’s thoughts.
      Any and every issue can be seen from different perspectives and a sense of balance is always good.
      Relative to grace: for sure, we should respond to people in grace; I think I extended grace to this lady by sitting quietly and listening to her talk for 40 minutes. But the “other side of the coin” is…was this lady acting Christ-like in talking excessively? I don’t think so. I envision Jesus as one who shared conversations, not dominating them. The main point in my post is that all of us have areas that we need to fine-tune and sometimes we’re simply not aware of those areas. I think that’s fair to say. Take care, Don

  8. I wonder if the lady you visited has always been that way or it’s just since her husband died? Lockdown has been cruel to people living on their own. If she had made an internet search before your visit she could have found out several facts about you and Mary and perhaps thought she already knew all about you both. TV celebrities often complain that people act that way.

    I appreciate your visit was just an illustration to the bigger point about asking friends to give an honest evaluation of any character flaws. I would be interested to know if any of them have taken up the challenge? Were you able to change your behaviour? Did the friend reciprocate by asking you to give them an evaluation?

    Perhaps I am the woman who asks too many questions!

    1. Angela. I know you as the women who asks good questions and always has good thoughts to share.
      My wife Mary and my children are my best sources of feedback. Fortunately, we have strong and honest relationships, so we benefit from a reciprocal conversation. The issue I’m working on most right now is my tendency to be emotionally tone-deaf. I’ll be working on that for the rest of my life.

  9. Hi Don, I liked your suggestion , asking good friends for comments about aspects of our personality which could use some transformation. Now , I need to be strong and courageous to follow up with your suggestion. ?

    1. Thanks, Susan, for taking the time to write. You’re right, the honest conversation with a trusted confidant is hard to do but worth the effort. Don

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