I affectionately call myself a “monologue talker”.
What does that mean?
It means that, given the space, I will just talk, and talk, and talk. When my girlfriend asks me how my day was, I’m likely to give a 10 minute monologue with a blow by blow of each moment. Or when she asks me to explain something that I’m reading, I’ll not only explain the concept, I’ll go into various perspectives on it, my own feelings and reactions, the arguments and counterarguments I find most persuasive, etc. It’s frustrating for both of us (and luckily for my clients and students I’ve learnt to edit myself when I’m in the role of “counselor” or “teacher”).
Maybe you have a romantic partner who is a “monologue talker”. Maybe it’s a friend, a coworker, a boss, or a family member. Or maybe you’re a “monologue talker”. Here is the secret about us monologue talkers…we desperately want to feel heard.
And we think that the way to feel heard is to just tell you more and more details about our experience. But it’s faulty thinking. It’s actually sharing too much!
And so yes, we monologue talkers need to learn how to chunk down our messages so that we really give our listeners a manageable amount. But waiting around for someone else to change on their own is frustrating at best. So let me explain the healthy way to help a monologue talker feel heard and understood, and thus stop monologue talking.
You may have heard of “reflective listening” or maybe “active listening”. It’s when, as the person listening, you reflect back a personal summary of what the other person said. For example:
Bob (speaker): I’m really frustrated about work! My boss is cutting back hours, and he’s expecting us to still get done all of our normal responsibilities! He’s insane!
Sally (listener): Wow! That does sound really frustrating! It sounds like it’s really unreasonable of him to think you all can get the same amount of work done in less time.
You don’t reflect back word for word what the speaker said, you try instead to put it in your own words and summarize the speaker’s message. And while for some, or most, of you may be familiar with reflective listening, let me give you three tips on how to do it really expertly. In a way that could help that monologue talker in your life really feel heard (and just an fyi, this practice of reflective listening and some of these tips also really help you open up those with the opposite affliction, the “two word talkers”).
First, make an empathetic interruption. I know this sounds contradictory, show that you’re listening by interrupting. But I swear this will help monologue talkers. Saying something like “wait, let me make sure I’ve got it straight so far…” or “hold on, it sounds like you’re saying…” if followed by reflective listening shows that you really care about what the speaker is saying. It shows the speaker that you care about what they’re sharing and that you have been listening up to this point. Doing this also is the number one way of helping monologue talkers begin to learn how to chunk down their messages into bite sized pieces.
Second, reflect back what they didn’t say. In the example above with Bob & Sally, here’s how Sally could have reflected back what Bob didn’t say:
Sally: “Wow, I hear how frustrated you are with your boss. Are you also anxious about what he might say or do if you can’t do everything in less time? Do you wish that your job was simply more relaxed and peaceful?”
Bob never talked about feeling anxious about his job, nor did he say anything about what he wishes his work environment was like. But Sally read between the lines, and intuited what might be going on for Bob that he isn’t saying. She then reflected that back to him in the form of a question.
Third, react as if whatever the person is describing had happened to you. React with your face and body. If the speaker is talking about something sad, let your face and body drop. If the speaker is talking about something alarming, raise your eye brows, open your eyes more, and make a shocked face. I don’t mean try to act like it happened to you. Acting often feels fake and it won’t work. Really let yourself naturally react as if whatever the speaker is talking about had actually happened to you.
KindCommunication.org is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.