“Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…”
We’ve all been in a meeting with that one person who answers every question, responds to every point, and totally dominates the conversation with their thoughts, opinions, and chatter that seems to have no ending point.
Sometimes this person is acting on purpose, filibustering until everyone else falls asleep or until lunch arrives. Either way way they get the last word.
Other times, though, the chatterbox may simply be overly excited about an idea, or nervous about speaking up in front of a group, so they unintentionally ramble way too long or way too often. Their brain just goes 100 mph — so fast and unfocused it can’t formulate an exit strategy. So, basically, they keep talking until they run out of breath.
If you have a chatterbox that is, intentionally OR unintentionally, disrupting an otherwise productive meeting here is how to deal with someone who talks too much during meetings:
- Physically direct the conversation away from them. Specifically ask other people, by name, preferably on the opposite side of the table or room, to respond or add their thoughts to the conversation. You can even soften the transition by acknowledging the chatterbox with something like, “Tony, those are some solid ideas,” (turning away from Tony), “Susan, what are your thoughts?”What happens if Tony doesn’t ever stop talking long enough to step in? In these cases, I’ve found that you eventually have to take any pause you can get, even if it feels like you’re cutting Tony off in mid-sentence. Chances are, Tony knows he’s off the rails and is grateful that he didn’t have to figure out how to wrap it up himself.
- In extreme cases, or longer meetings where the problem continues, pull aside the person and tell them directly that you appreciate how much they’ve been participating, but you’d like them to take a break for a while and let some other people share. Encourage them to write down their ideas that they can share later in the meeting if they want. You can even appeal to their ego, “You have SO many good ideas, but I’d like everyone else to feel like they can contribute their thoughts, too.”
The great thing about these ideas is that you can give them a shot even if you’re not leading the meeting. If the leader or facilitator isn’t addressing the issue, you might just salvage the meeting by doing your part to help shut down the chatterbox.