Garrulous. Chatterbox. Long-winded. In love with the sound of your own voice.
If you’re a talkative person, you’ve probably heard one or two of these before. Pointed comments like these might even prompt some worries that you talk a little too much.
Maybe you challenge yourself to keep quiet for a day or two, but it’s hard because you just have so much to share. Not to mention that when you don’t join in a conversation, people seem surprised and wonder why you suddenly have nothing to say.
Talkativeness isn’t all bad. In fact, it’s a valued trait in many professional fields.
But when does the gift of gab become more of a curse?
“Talking too much” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone.
Not everyone enjoys conversing with others, so some people consider a few sentences too much. Others who love a good story might happily listen to anything you want to share. Sometimes, people might say you talk too much simply because they dislike what you have to say.
Rather than paying attention to your actual word count, try exploring the space your conversation takes up and how it affects others.
Do you cut off co-workers? Talk over friends? Dominate the conversation at family dinners? Say things that others might consider harsh, unkind, or offensive?
Some insight on medical terms for excessive talking can also help you gauge your speech:
This type of talking involves rapid, often forceful speech that’s often difficult to stop, even when other people try to get a word in.
You talk more than you usually do, at a much faster pace, perhaps even at a higher volume. You might feel as if you can’t really control the words flowing out as you jump from idea to idea, stringing thoughts together so quickly that listeners struggle to keep up with you.
Hyperverbal refers to fast, increased speech.
Perhaps you notice yourself talking quickly to get out everything you have to say. You might have trouble waiting your turn to talk and catch yourself interrupting others regularly.
This isn’t too different from pressured speech, and some professionals might use the two terms interchangeably. Still, hyperverbal speech won’t necessarily involve quick transitions between thoughts or the use of rhymes or puns to connect thoughts, as pressured speech often does.
This type of speech often involves rapid switching between subjects, without any clear connection between the topics.
You might reply to questions with answers that others consider entirely unrelated. Sometimes, disorganized speech involves strings of random words that seemingly lack a clear connection.
Disorganized speech may not be faster than normal speech, but it can still confuse others. When it’s severe, it can get in the way of normal communication.
Older research exploring overcommunication points out that while many people consider talkativeness a positive trait, some people take communication a bit too far.
The researchers, who describe this pattern as compulsive talking or “talkaholism,” outline a few key signs:
- talking a lot, often more than anyone else, in most situations
- struggling to talk less, even while working, during school, or at other key “quiet” times
- recognizing that you talk a lot, generally because others have told you so
- finding it hard to stay quiet, even when continuing to talk poses problems for you
Other research suggests some compulsive talkers may:
- fail to realize they talk excessively
- tend toward argumentativeness
- have a habit of taking over conversations
- care little about criticism or negative remarks from others
Generally speaking, compulsive talkers have trouble reigning in their speech, even when they try hard.
Often, talkativeness is nothing more than a personality trait.
Extroverts, for example, often have great conversation skills. Many people can enjoy a good tête-à-tête with friends (or perfect strangers) and still recognize when quiet might be the best response. If you can easily stop talking when you need to, chattiness is likely just one aspect of your unique personality.
That said, various forms of excessive talking can show up as a symptom of some mental health conditions:
- Pressured speech often happens as part of manic or hypomanic episodes.
- Disorganized speech can show up as a key symptom of schizophrenia and other disorders of psychosis, along with schizotypal personality disorder.
- Rambling or excessive talking can show up with social anxiety. You fear saying the wrong thing or being judged by others, but you end up talking more than you intended in an effort to make up for your anxiety and help quiet the worries revolving around what others think of you.
- Hyperverbal speech may show up as a symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or
anxiety. If you have anxiety, you might talk more than usual or speak very quickly when you feel most nervous.
- Excessive talking about the self. It’s not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to discuss accomplishments, goals, or plans at great length during a manic episode. This speech often seems grandiose or less than realistic. People with narcissistic personality disorder might talk a lot about their abilities, things they’ve accomplished, or important people they know in order to earn attention.
Keep in mind the conditions mentioned above all involve other symptoms. In general, symptoms will be pretty apparent, and they’ll often begin to affect your relationships and daily life.
Here’s a look at some other major symptoms of these conditions:
- Episodes of mania in bipolar disorder usually involve increased energy, less need for sleep, racing thoughts, and increased productivity at school or work. You might also feel restless and easily distracted.
- Anxiety and social anxiety involve frequent, persistent worries about various aspects of your daily life. With social anxiety, these worries fixate on social settings and what others think of you. These conditions can also involve physical symptoms, like pain and tension, stomach distress, and trouble sleeping.
- Other ADHD symptoms include forgetfulness, trouble managing time, distractibility or difficulty concentrating, and restlessness or hyperactivity.
- With narcissistic personality disorder, you’ll have a strong belief in your own importance, difficulty understanding the needs and feelings of others, and a strong need for praise and admiration.
- Schizophrenia typically involves hallucinations, delusions, and other symptoms that disconnect you from reality.
When talkativeness doesn’t happen alongside any emotional distress or cause unpleasant feelings, it’s probably just part of who you are.
Even when a love of chitchat doesn’t suggest any underlying issues, it could still create some difficulties in day-to-day interactions.
You may have heard, at some time or another, that communication is a two-way street. You can’t just express your own ideas. Listening is essential, too. Unless you spend time doing both, you can’t truly communicate.
If anyone has ever complained, “Let someone else get a word in,” or “Yes, you’ve told that story a million times already,” it may be worth revisiting your recent conversations to weigh the time you spend talking against the time you spend listening.
These tips can help you communicate more mindfully.
Pay attention to how others respond
You can often learn a lot about your conversation style and volume by taking note of other people’s reactions.
Try asking yourself these questions:
- Do people tend to start conversations by quickly saying “I only have a few minutes to talk” or “I’m in a hurry, so we have to keep this short”?
- Do people seem reluctant to start up a conversation? They might wave and leave the room as you enter or reply to phone calls with a short text.
- Do people often seem distracted or disinterested in what you have to say? Maybe they nod along or scroll through their phone as you talk, or their end of the conversation involves a lot of “Wow,” “Yeah,” and “Huh.” These responses aren’t entirely polite, of course, but when most of the people you talk to react this way, it may be worth taking a closer look.
- Have you caught yourself interrupting or cutting others off?
- Do you sometimes say more than you intended or share information others asked you to keep private?
If you mostly answered yes, consider setting your well-developed conversational skills aside and taking the opportunity to sharpen your active listening techniques.
Keep conversations balanced
Even if you’re a big talker, you don’t need to clam up completely. In fact, you may find yourself in situations where talking a lot is a benefit.
Maybe you regularly spend time with a more introverted friend who’s perfectly happy to listen as you take the conversational lead.
In a mixed group or among other loquacious friends, however, you might want to make more effort to offer everyone a chance to speak.
Here are some pointers for keeping the balance:
- Ask questions instead of filling the space with your own experiences.
- Listen when other people answer instead of thinking about what you want to say next.
- Avoid cutting in as soon as conversations come to a pause. Some people need more time to collect their ideas than others, and a brief lull gives people a chance to consider what others have said before speaking.
- Always avoid interrupting when someone else speaks. If you have a question or want some clarification, let them finish their sentence and come to a natural pause before you ask.
Get comfortable with silence
People often feel uncomfortable when conversations die off.
Maybe you talk a lot because you worry about coming across as boring. You might even worry that quiet moments with your partner mean the two of you have nothing to say to each other and take this as a sign your relationship won’t last.
Silence isn’t a bad thing, though, and some people even enjoy it. It offers a chance to reflect and sort through thoughts. Actively and respectfully participating in a conversation takes energy — even if you’re only listening. Your partner, or anyone else, may not have the same conversational energy as you do.
Try keeping a journal handy to jot down thoughts that come up during quiet moments. Sometimes, writing them down might relieve the need to say them out loud, but if not — there’s always later!
Think before you speak
Sure, it’s an old saying, but that doesn’t detract from its wisdom.
It never hurts to make a habit of considering what you want to say before you say it. Ask yourself, “Does this add something new?” or “Should I really share this with everyone?”
Perhaps you became more talkative to make up the difference in a relationship with a partner who didn’t talk much, or your chattiness developed as a result of a lonely childhood. Maybe anxiety or nervousness drives the urge to ease your worries by filling conversational dead space.
Mindfulness techniques, in particular, can help you learn to stay focused in the moment and prioritize what’s most important and relevant in your current surroundings.
It’s not always easy to tell where the line falls between “too much talking” and “just enough.”
You probably don’t need to worry about how much you talk if you talk a lot but others seem to enjoy your conversation and continue reaching out. When it seems as if people actively avoid having conversations with you, however, you might want to make an effort to share less and listen more.
If breaking the habit of nonstop talking proves challenging, a therapist can help you explore potential reasons for compulsive talking and offer support with developing more mindful communication skills.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.