David Leser on the epidemic of over-talkers

Credit: The Twins Project / illustrationroom.com.au

many A few years ago, a friend and I had an argument over his partner, and no, it’s not what you think it is. What I remember is that he dated two women for a few months, and one evening, after a few drinks, he asked me who I thought would suit him better.

The first woman, Virginia*, is a South African-born consultant who came here on vacation in Canada. The second is the ebullient Rebecca* from Hobart. In retrospect, the correct answer should have been obvious: “Not sure. Which one do you think?” Then, “Look at that stunning group of crimson roselles.”

Instead, I immediately said, “Virginia.”

“Why?” my friend asked.

“Because Rebecca never stops talking.”

My friend ended up choosing Rebecca – but he ended up not only choosing Rebecca, but marrying Rebecca. Of course he told Rebecca what I said.

Our friendship was never fully restored, and—as you can imagine—rebecca and I had a strained relationship for decades.

But the point (other than not asking or answering onerous questions) is this: some people talk too much, and we all know them. talkative person. They speak when they have nothing to say. They’ll talk when there’s something to say, but they’re the only ones who say it. They don’t seem to realize that there are other people in the room who can help share the burden of the conversation because, for some unexplainable reason, they feel obligated to take responsibility for themselves. They go on, unabated, unstoppable, uninterrupted.

And if you do manage to chime in by throwing yourself into the gaps in the conversation, they’ll stop – a little surprised by your presence – and pick up where they left off.


In psychological terminology it is known as logorrhoea, which is derived from the Greek word logomeaning the word, and diarrhea, meaning traffic. At its worst, it’s a never-ending torrent of words, often related to traumatic brain injury. In its more everyday form, it is a constant need to talk without a corresponding need to listen.

or even ask a question! In fact, this is not quite true. They do ask questions. They just don’t want answers.

“So, how are you going to go?” an old friend would say. He’d be out again before I could start forming a response: “Anyway, about you, let’s get back to me.” It would be fun if he wasn’t half-serious.

first rule The point of conversational etiquette is definitely that it’s a two-way street, not a one-way alley. There are yellow lights, speed bumps, and flower beds to look at, but for some reason, the overly talkative person can’t take his or her foot off the pedal. In fact, they seem more than happy to chop down anyone who gets in their way, especially if they’re talking drunk.

I know another person who is so brilliant that no subject in the world seems to surpass him. Quantum physics? Hear about his new theory of entanglement. Labor primaries? He is in standing order throughout the National Conference. Miley Cyrus’ four-album deal with Hollywood Records? Don’t get him started.

Seat this guy at a dinner party for 10 and watch the oxygen escape the room. Two guests would bite off their elbows before entrées; four more would drop into their dessert bowls numb from a coma, and the remaining three would stare at the melted candle wax as if naked Mushrooms just started the same.

Will this person notice? No, he has a lot to say, but only a limited amount of time to say it; going forward he’ll surge, mistaking a polite smile for interest, or even infatuation.

Then there are interrupters who can become one with the naysayers. Not only will they never let you finish a sentence, they will never agree with anything you say.

“The Beatles put out a lot of albums in seven years,” you might mildly suggest.

“No, they didn’t, why do you say that?”

Then there is the single upper. “You got robbed in Marrakech? … Yes, it was hard. Actually I got robbed and Kidnapped in Casablanca. “

Sometimes it’s just turning the conversation back on themselves, which of course is what narcissists do.

“Did your whole family get into a car accident? Scoundrel. My goldfish died, so I’ve been through sad things too.”

How important is gender? a lot of. Most women I know are amazed that men, especially older men, talk about them so freely.

“It’s as if the female voice is a primordial cue for a lot of men,” a friend told me. “In boardrooms, you’ll see that when a woman starts talking, the men immediately start looking at their phones. Or at dinner, they turn around and start a separate conversation, maybe about something important, like football. The offside rule in the

That’s not half of it. I’ll bet there’s hardly a woman in this country who hasn’t gone on a first date without being a) blown away by how well this guy talks about herself, and b) surprised he didn’t ask her a single, lonely question.

so what’s behind This epidemic of over-talking, and this seemingly rampant inability to ask questions or listen properly? Is it the fact that we live in the hustle and bustle culture of putting on roller skates and our devices creating a collective attention deficit disorder and self-absorbed contagion?

Is this Tourette’s Syndrome, a neurological malfunction that can’t be turned off? Is this a giant ego that thinks it has the right to dominate a room and go to hell with everyone else?

Or, as Arundhati Roy observes in her 1997 novel, god of little thingspeople become “chatter” out of fear, and they stop this fear by constantly “chattering”.

Maybe that’s it – Nigerian writer Ayòbámi Adébáyò also talks about the fear of silence. “I was overwhelmed by an urge to fill every silence with words,” she said. “For me, silence is a hole in the universe that sucks us all in. My mission is to plug this deadly hole with words and save the world.” Chatter as planetary rescue therapy.

Here’s another way to potentially save the world, you talkatives. stop. pause. listen. Listen carefully. Don’t organize your arguments while others are speaking so you can dismantle them when they finish (if, in fact, you let them finish). The conversation is about taking turns, and, as amazing as it sounds, you might actually learn something from listening.


The late New Zealand-born comedian, satirist and author John Clarke was a legendary communicator. His collaborator and author Bryan Dawe claims to have had a three-and-a-half-day conversation with him; while other friends remember being able to put down the phone, make a cup of tea, and come back to find Clark still unblocked.

But here’s the thing. Not only does Clark love to talk, he loves to listen — all kinds of people from all walks of life. He was curious and convinced of the radical notion that conversations involved more than one person.

A colleague of mine featured Clark for this magazine many years ago. She still remembered how much Clark liked the idea of ​​talking. “A great conversation, he said, is like going down a river together, and when it’s allowed to flow, the conversation goes farther.

“If someone keeps interrupting the flow to disagree or point out why you’re wrong, if they keep turning the boat over a conversation block, or hogging the helm, it’s going to get nowhere.”

This is the case with so many exchanges today. They’re not real conversations, because there’s no thought games, no mind games, no threads that might indicate mutual interest or respect.

Nor is Silent Eloquence considered, which has its own music.

* The identification function has been changed.

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