The Talkative Co-Worker

So, what do you do when you have a talkative co-worker who never seems to stop talking, who interrupts you constantly, and doesn’t get ‘the message’ that you’re trying to get your work done? How can you effectively work with this colleague so that everyone wins? (If you think you might be talking too much, read this.)

Here’s 9 strategies for dealing with the office talker:

1. Ask WHY

It’s important to take a moment and ask yourself why this person might be talking so much. Are they nervous? Do they need recognition? Are they seeking approval? Is it just a bad habit? Trying to understand the reasons behind a person’s incessant talking will give you perspective on their behaviour.

2. Tell the truth

Even though it’s tricky and confronting, being prepared to talk about too much talking will make a huge difference. Be honest (and friendly) and let your co-worker know. Try and find a quiet place, away from listening ears, and help your co-worker become aware of his/her constant talking.

3. Use ‘I’ statements.

‘I’ statements show that you are talking about your own feelings and observations. As soon as you start saying ‘You’ it becomes accusatory of the other person and they will feel an overwhelming need to defend themselves rather than have a conversation with you. (Here’s more on how to have a difficult conversation).

4. Reschedule

Sometimes the talkative co-worker does actually need to talk to you, but because they tend to struggle reading social cues they don’t realise that they are interrupting. For these conversations that need to occur, make a time with the talkative co-worker to sit down and discuss that particular issue for a pre-determined amount of time.

5. Assign work

This one is a bit cheeky, but one way of deterring the chatty colleague is assigning work to them every time they stop by your desk. Give them a task to do or ask them to find something for you – they may think twice next time before they interrupt you.

6. Amplify the non-verbal

People who talk a lot often don’t respond to subtle non-verbal cues. They tend to miss the “I’m busy” and the “I can’t talk now” cues, so to help them, make these cues even more noticeable. Use larger gestures and more intense facial expression and put more expression into your voice. Amplify the social cues that tell the person ‘You’re interrupting me.’

7. Relocate

Sometimes, one of the best strategies you can use is to physically move yourself away from the talkative co-worker. Say something like, ‘I can’t talk right now’ and then immediately move away and relocate yourself away from the talker.

8. Override them

If you have tried everything to deal with the talkative colleague and it’s still an issue, talk to their boss and get their involvement in solving the problem. Be sure to share the various strategies you have already tried so that your/their boss knows you have made an effort to fix the situation yourself.

9. Be self aware

Make sure you aren’t talking too much. If you think you might have a tendency to talk more than listen, then read this.

This week, as you apply these strategies, you’ll notice changes in your workplace environment and hopefully in the talkative co-worker.

Enjoy the journey,

And more importantly, enjoy the moments.



QUESTION: Do you work with someone like this? What do you do to handle them? You can leave your comments here.