When adults with Aspergers (a kind of high-functioning autism) talk too much at work or school, there are some things that help. Here are some techniques I’m using with my adult clients. If you are the person talking too much, try these ideas for yourself.
Talking percentages. If there are 2 people having a conversation, each person gets about half the talking time, or 50%. If there are 4 people, each person gets about 25% of the talking time, and so on. Reminders to know what percentage is theirs may help. For the “too much talker” – count up the people in your conversation group and only use “your percentage” of talking time.
Respond in 30 seconds (or 1 – 2 sentences). One or 2 sentences should take about 30 seconds. For conversations at school or work to be efficient, keep to the 1 -2 sentences (or 30 second) rule. Practice this with a friend and a timer. At first you may find it really hard to keep your response at 1 – 2 sentences or only 30 seconds. That’s probably because you are in the habit of going on and on! Practice with a time at 1 minute. If you can do it at 1 minute then try decreasing the time to 50 seconds, then go down to 40 seconds, and down to 30 as you are able.
Try a challenge – make your response in 15 seconds! One of the most frequent complaints people at work have is that co-workers are not respectful of their time. It may be that a “too much talker” does not know the hidden social rule that conversational comments and responses need to be 1 – 2 sentences, or about 30 seconds.
Filter! Ever had a classmate or a workmate have their eyes glaze over with boredom? Is it possible you are not using your talking “filter”? A filter is like a spaghetti strainer or colander. It allows some things to flow out (water) and some things to stay in (spaghetti) I use a small strainer, a kitchen tool, with my clients. When they give me too much information, I hold up the strainer! At first they wondered what that was for, so we talked about filters and how it’s important to not
- say everything you’re thinking, or
- say everything you know about a topic, or
- repeat something that your listener has heard before
A filter needs to be over your mouth at all times. Actually this a universal idea, because all adults need to filter what they say, throughout their whole life, in every situation.
Learn basics for conversation. There are really only 3 ways to respond in a conversation where you are trying to stop talking too much and help the others in the conversation feel comfortable. Doing these things will make your conversational partner feel like you have a genuine interest in them. For a logical person it may seem silly to have to be concerned about your classmate or workmate’s feelings, but that is really what people need to be able to work well together, and share space efficiently.
- Asking questions to a person about that person
- Supporting comment/response
This idea comes from the Social Thinking website, and is aimed at clients who need help in the area of social skills thinking and social skills training.
Self-discovery. Ask a trusted friend to provide his or her honest feedback about how much you talk and how it affects them. Write down their answer. Review the information and allow it to inform what you do next. Have you recently become aware that you are a “too much talker”? Explore the reasons why you do it. What is driving you to talk too much? Do you have areas you can address that will help you to stop talking too much? A friend or a counselor may help you to discover why you are talking too much, and knowing more about your reasons why may help you to make some positive changes.
Best of luck trying out these ideas. As always, I’m happy to hear your comments or questions. Thanks!