School Business Affairs January 2021 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | JANUARY 2021 37 MANAGEMENT BRIEFCASE What to do about the colleague who monopolizes everyone’s time. Taming the Office Overtalker By Nan Wodarz, EdD W e have all had interactions with colleagues who talk incessantly. They are easy to spot in meetings or in the lunchroom because they consume so much time that others begin to fidget, roll their eyes, or completely tune out. Many over- talkers have no idea they talk too much. Manifestations of Overtalking Overtalkers tend to overshare on a par- ticular point of interest to them or provide exhaustive detail that is of little consequence or value to the listener. They monopolize meeting time and are generally oblivious to the effect of their behaviors on others. To make their point, overtalkers may interrupt or talk over someone else, leaving others feeling unheard and dismissed, giv- ing the impression the overtalker is the only voice that matters. Many employees process information verbally. That is, they think through a prob- lem out loud. This can be overwhelming to colleagues who have already processed the information or simply do not think in that manner. Overtalkers don’t recognize that their behavior alienates them from their teammates. Overtalking might merely be an impulsive oversharing or stream of consciousness. These folks use talking as a way of connect- ing with others and being social; however, they do not understand that dialogue is a tentative balance of input and output. As they attempt to fill the silence, they fail to get the conversational equilibrium right. Reasons for Chronic Talking It is tempting to label a chronic talker a self- ish egotist. However, people overtalk for many reasons totally unrelated to ego. Studies in the 1990s found that about one in 20 people overtalks. This frenetic pattern of communication is usually triggered by a sense of inadequacy, which is so habitual that an individual has little awareness they are overtalking. Much research has linked overtalking to anxiety, a short attention span, or arrogance. Anxiety is usually due to a lack of self- confidence, heightened self-consciousness, or a discomfort in social situations. The more self-conscious an overtalker becomes, the more anxious they may feel and the less able they are to regulate their stress response of talking. While an individual may come across as confident and socially adept, low- level anxiety often sits just below the surface and is not obvious to a casual observer. Some characteristics of attention-deficit disorder manifest themselves in overtalking. Adults with ADHD may be impulsive, inter- rupting others or talking excessively. The first step in managing the overtalker is not jumping to conclusions. Arrogance is also a trigger for excessive talking when social understanding and awareness are low. An individual can be so self-absorbed they are not aware of their colleagues’ annoyance and continue to monopolize the conversation. Managing the Overtalker The first step in managing the overtalker is not jumping to conclusions. Rather, take the time to determine why the person is a chronic chatterer. If you can determine if the trigger is narcissistic behavior or merely anxiety, it will guide you in choosing the most helpful response. OLLY/STOCK.ADOBE.COM