How to Handle the Over Talker

There are some things about time management that are out of your control (like a car accident or your umbrella breaking right when it starts to rain). But one thing that is in your control is how much of your valuable time is wasted by the Over Talker. Read on for more...

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #266

A while back, I wrote an article called How to Talk to Strangers, in which I discussed techniques of politely talking with strangers without looking like a creep. One thing I didn't touch on in that episode was the fact that it’s totally not okay to talk to people non-stop until smoke comes out of their ears.  The person who does this is referred to as the “Over Talker.” The Over Talker loves (I mean, LOOOOOOVES!) to talk about anything, any time, anywhere, with anyone. Maybe they like to hear their own voice, or maybe they find you to be just super-duper interesting.

As much as I wish latter was true, I'm sorry to burst your bubble – it’s more likely the former. So before you get stuck listening to the Over Talker ramble on and on, check out my top 3 Quick and Dirty Tips for escaping the Over Talker:.

Tip #1: Stick and Move

The great Muhammad Ali once said, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” to describe his in-ring fighting style. He toyed around with opponents by floating like a butterfly around them, then WHAMO he’d sting them with a punch. I think about this saying when i get stuck listening to an Over Talker who will not leave me alone.

This mentality is not rude, folks. You have to remember that the Over Talkers does not have your best interest in mind. In fact, the Over Talker is a pretty selfish species. The Over Talker does not care if you’re in a rush, busy, or even interested in what they have to say - their mission is to talk to you until their needs are met. And because of this, you have to stay on your toes and not allow yourself to get caught up in their web. In other words, float like a butterfly and fly, fly away.

See also: How to Escape from an Awkward Conversation


As much as I love Ali’s saying, I’m not advising the “sting” part though. It’s the floating and moving that is key to avoiding an annoying Over Talker. - unless the Over Talker is your boss, and by walking away you will look insubordinate. However, your time is valuable, and boss or no boss, you have things to do too. This is when you float.  

Give the Over Talker (or anyone else) a window of your time – that’s simply being a good, conscientious person. But once you start to realize that you're stuck, start to float. If you’re at your desk, look through papers, hop online for email, or search (for anything) on your desk like you’re frustrated and busy. You can keep your answers limited to “Yes… Uh-huh… Sure…” but make yourself active. If they don’t take that hint, get up and start to walk around the office or cube to “look for something important.” This is how you float. It’s an act, yes, but it’s key to making the Over Talker realize – without having to say it to their face – that you have other things to do that don't involve listening to them.