How to Stop Babbling and Shut the Hell Up


You’ve got problems, I’ve got advice. This advice isn’t sugar-coated—in fact, it’s sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.

This week we have someone who talks too much and wants some help to stop.

Keep in mind, I’m not a therapist or any other kind of health professional—just a guy who’s willing to tell it like it is. I simply want to give you the tools you need to enrich your damn lives. If for whatever reason you don’t like my advice, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now then, let’s get on with it.

Hey Patrick,

I have control issues that manifest in an annoying way: I talk too much. Silence makes me anxious so I babble, babble, babble… I know when I’m doing it, and in my head I’m saying “Shut the fuck up!” But most times I just can’t stop. I need tools to stop this.

Sincerely,

The Babbler

Hey Babbler:

You know, for someone who says they talk too much you’ve somehow managed to be one of the quickest to the point with your request for advice. There’s a feather for your cap. No, don’t go tell people about your new feather. It’s nice, but be quiet and listen to me for a minute. You say silence makes you anxious, but I’m assuming you mean silence around other people.

To be honest, nobody likes awkward silences. Your real problem, Babbs—because you say this is a control issue—is that you don’t trust anyone else to have something to say, and you refuse to listen. You’re convinced someone has to steer the conversation and you take the helm before anyone else can reach for it. So you fill the void with your own rambling. But good on you for wanting to fix it, Babbs. Here’s what you do:

  • Practice saying nothing. This will be harder than it sounds. Join in on group conversations and do nothing but listen with your mouth shut. Take mental notes on what others are saying and not what you want to say. Respond to questions directed at you with one sentence answers, then go back to listening. Let the silence come and see what happens.
  • Eventually, you can graduate to the “stoplight rule.” You’re in the green speaking for about 20 seconds, in the yellow speaking for 40 seconds, and should be stopping no matter what at the red, which is 60 seconds of nonstop chatter.
  • You can be in the green and yellow as much as you need as long as you don’t break the “50/50 rule,” which basically just says you should be listening as just as much as you speak—if not more.
  • Turn conversations into a game. If you can’t walk away from a talk with at least three mental notes about what they said, you lose. No [insert treat here] for you!
  • Ask for help. If you let someone you trust know that you’re trying to be better, they can help stop you before you even start.

Brevity is the soul of wit, Babbs, so don’t be a dummy. When in doubt, bow out of a conversation when your anxiety gets the best of you. It’ll take some time to break your bad habits, so stay vigilant.


That’s it for this week, but I still have plenty of blunt, honest advice bottled up inside. Tell me, what’s troubling you? Is work getting you down? Are you having problems with a friend or a coworker? Is your love life going through a rough patch? Do you just feel lost in life, like you have no direction? Tell me, and maybe I can help. I probably won’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. Ask away in the comments below, or email me at the address you see at the bottom of the page (please include “ADVICE” in the subject line). Or tweet at me with #ToughLove! Also, DO NOT EMAIL ME IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR REQUEST FEATURED. I do not have time to respond to everyone just for funsies. ‘Til next time, figure things out for yourself.



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