Hi, James Loewen here. A common problem I hear about, and deal with in my own world, is people who don’t know when to stop talking. Sometimes I have that problem myself, and have appreciated someone else helping me stop. I am going to give you my top five methods for getting people to shut up, nicely.
Whether I am buying, selling or managing people I have found that the following techniques help manage talkers.
I will usually wait for a gap or pause in the other persons flow, but some people don’t give any gaps or pauses (a formidable skill), so I have to interrupt. The interruption is necessary when you or others are being negatively impacted by a person’s failure to stop talking. I will always use one of the following techniques when I interrupt a person.
Sometimes the problem is focus; the person Is heading down a rabbit trail and taking up precious time. One good response is to ask a re-focusing question. Some examples are; “I am having trouble connecting this to what we were talking about, can you help me with that?” , “Could you help me understand how this relates to what we were talking about?”, or “I am wondering if you could say more about what we were focusing on.”
The Fairness Method:
If one person is dominating the discussion, a call to fairness is a good technique to use. Some examples: “We have heard quite a bit from you on this, I would like to give some others a chance to speak to it.”, or “Given our limited time, can we hear from someone else on this subject?”, or “Thanks for that, can we hear from someone who hasn’t had a chance to speak yet?”
This is similar to the refocus, but is more directive. I use it when I have very specific goals for the conversation and very limited time or resources to allocate to the person. Some examples are; “Thanks for that, I need to hear more from you on what I called you for.” , or “When we started the conversation I needed to hear about something from you, can we get back to that.”, or “This is a bit of a rabbit trail and I do need to get back on track, can you say more about what I asked you about?”
The Apology and Exit:
I use this one when I don’t have any stake in the conversation and I need to go. Essentially you are managing a graceful exit. The idea is to make an apology about the fact that you can’t listen to them anymore and state clearly that you have somewhere else you need to be. You don’t wait for permission to move on, you are informing them the conversation is over and you are leaving. Some examples; “I am sorry, what you are saying is really important and I don’t have the time right now to give you my attention. I have another meeting I need to get to so I need to say goodbye.” Or “Sorry, I am really distracted right now because I have somewhere else I need to be, lets connect on this another time (you can set the time right then or arrange it later).”, or “Unfortunately this isn’t my area of expertise and I do need to go. I will connect you with someone who would be better able to help you. “
I have used all of these in settings ranging from informal conversations, to meetings, to teaching, to sales and buying situations. Give it a try yourself. Pick a method you are most comfortable with and give it a go. In your next meeting, specifically target those ‘talkers’, the others in the meeting will thank you. Make it a part of your sales process that you can refocus the dialogue and get out when you need to.