Setting limits with over-talkers

Your time is precious. Here’s how to reclaim it from the timewasters.

Does someone you work with bore you to tears with twenty minute monologues? Frequently interrupt you by stopping by your desk for a quick chat that goes on forever? Being sociable at work is great. But if you resent your time being taken up by over-talkers, these tips might come in handy.

Send out busy signals

If you’re not comfortable with being direct, use non-verbal signs to deflect chatty coworkers. When you spot them heading your way or gearing up to start talking at you, look busy. Get on the phone or start typing. Avoid eye contact. Look like you’re really focussing on what you’re doing. Unless the over-talker has absolutely no social awareness, this may head them off at the pass. Be careful not to appear off-hand. And this tactic probably won’t wash with the boss.

Defer the conversation

Sweeten the pill of being unavailable to talk by offering to meet up later. Say you’re busy, but would love to catch up over coffee later/tomorrow. Scheduling something in your diary straightaway will show your good intentions. This tactic works well if you’re on friendly terms or work closely with the over-talker. Not so much if you really want to avoid the person altogether.

Mentally set the stopwatch running

Commit to talking to over-talkers for a set time. Forewarn them by saying you’ll have to leave/do something else in five minutes, say. For those five minutes give your full attention to the conversation. Politely end the conversation once you’ve reached your time limit.

Honesty is the best policy

Open and honest communication is almost always the way to go. If you’re too busy to talk, be direct and tell the person this. You don’t need to be rude about it. There’s no need to explain or justify yourself either. Simply state you’ve got to focus on what you’re doing and get back to it. Ultimately, you will be respected for being straight up with people.

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