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Michael J. Hurd Ph.D.

Reblogged:The Psychology of Babbling Friends/Relatives (DE Wave)

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The summer season will most probably be accompanied by get-togethers with family and friends. All that can be lots of fun, but it has its limits. It’s my nature to stand back and listen to people (it’s what I do…), and I can’t help but notice how certain people talk excessively. Not just animated party banter, but the kind of chatter that makes you want to jump up and shout: “Help! He’s talking and he can’t shut up!

The world is full of otherwise nice people who can’t stop blathering during movies, TV shows, concerts, or who dominate the conversation to the point where everyone starts to politely withdraw. It’s funny, annoying (remember “Cliff” from the old TV show “Cheers”?) and a little pathetic. And it is sometimes indicative of a serious problem.

“Compulsive” refers to a behavior a person cannot seem to help. People who chatter compulsively are often aware of it, but feel compelled to do it anyway. The most common cause of any compulsive behavior is anxiety. A person behaves compulsively not because he wants to, but because he’s so anxious that he has to do something to get his mind off the anxiety. Until he comes to grips with whatever he doesn’t want to think about, the yammering will continue.

The root of anxiety can be deep-seated feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, i.e., some people just don’t feel good about themselves. Despite the arrogance they appear to project, in reality they feel like they don’t measure up. They respond to this in two ways (both of them unhealthy): (1) they withdraw in shyness and exaggerated humility, and/or (2) they try to demonstrate (to others AND to themselves) that they do, in fact, measure up.

The need to prove oneself fuels this compulsive behavior. “What’s that you say? You have a new car? Let me tell you everything I know about cars….” Or, “You liked the game yesterday? Well, that was nothing! I’ll tell you about the game back in ’78….” There’s a sad urgency to this attempt to prove oneself. The subject feels like he hasn’t gained your acceptance, so he’s tries to get it by showing you all he knows – when in fact he’s showing you the depth of his insecurity.

I had a neighbor years ago who was a compulsive talker. As she yammered on and on, she would inject into her commentary things like, “I know I’m talking too much — I truly can’t help it — it really makes me feel like a crazy person — but I can’t help it!” She spoke in 30-minute sentences. It was sadly funny, yet interesting that she recognized her compulsive urge even as she engaged in it.

Her emotional filibuster helped to contain her unease about whatever made her feel anxious; allowing her to disregard, at least temporarily, the insecurity she felt inside. A number of insecure people have confided to me over the years that they talk so they don’t have to feel bad about themselves, or so they don’t have to face what they don’t want to talk about.

For my compulsive neighbor, silence and reflection were out of the question. A pause in conversation was an emotional abyss into which she simply could not help but throw herself. Just as loud music can distract from the task at hand, incessant chatter distracts from whatever thoughts might dare to surface during a silent moment. Obsessive talkers need to fill the quiet with auditory distraction, and the avalanche of words can be excruciating to those unfortunate enough to be within earshot.

None of this is meant to belittle or insult our babbling friend(s). We don’t have the power to instantly change people or to make them discover the roots of their behaviors if they’re not motivated to do so. But perhaps this little bit of insight can help reduce the captive listeners’ exasperation by reminding us that, beneath the fragile veneer of “knowing it all,” they actually feel like they don’t know very much at all.

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The post The Psychology of Babbling Friends/Relatives (DE Wave) appeared first on Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D. | Living Resources Center.

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Gee Wiz. First of all, thank you for the post. I enjoyed reading it from start to finish!

I am someone who tends to talk a lot. But I try to do 50% listening and 50% speaking. Usually I will ask questions about someone, and give them ample opportunity to tell me about themselves as I do not swarm the entire conversation (monopolize talking). And I let them express their ideas as much as they'd like because I love learning via listening.

I will also bring up subjects that interest me, and ask someone what they think of a topic. I will often also ask them what definitions are of different words I'm using, and I ask them if they know synonyms, or better words to express similar ideas.

All this, just so both of us actually get some blood flowing to our brains!

Also, sometimes I will read to friends articles I have wrote, or a writers small excerpt or synopsis, and ask what they think of the content. Also, to make sure people are following, I sometimes ask them to paraphrase such content, and tell me in their own words what the material is saying.

If you're not part of a book club, or collaborating/studying with peers - than everything I have mentioned is great for expanding conversations and reaching new levels of social bonding.

I think, sometimes being quiet is the best course of action. But, conversation creates social bonds and connects people with each other. Humans are social animals, and it's old news that socializing and bonding with others is one of the best medicines for your brain.

But your sentiment is right. I have been told to before by people, to please stop haggling them with questions. Or they politely cease talking, and return their attention to their iPad. :)

That doesn't mean that we can't sometimes have great conversations (With the perfect company).

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