How to control conversation hogs.

An old proverb quotes “Empty vessels make the most noise”, meaning there’s that vocal one amongst us who always has to be heard but doesn’t really have much to contribute.

Now I’m not actually a great believer in targeting all people who speak out as not having substance. What I feel is that others who also have important contributions are supressed before bringing it forward fearing rebuttal from outspoken individuals.

So the answer shouldn’t be about gagging these individuals, after all, their opinions do count, more so the question should be about how do you make your point when others are determined that the stage is theirs alone?

Here are some methods that will help.

From the individuals perspective

  • Go into neutral… The most vocal people often react to feedback. Refrain from nodding or rolling your eyes. Give NO clue and let them go, I can assure you, without fuel, their point will burn out quickly as there’s no engagement.
  • Continue… When someone butts in, don’t stop. Simply continue as if they were sat there with Gaffa tape across their mouth! They will soon get the point.
  • Boring!!!… Regardless of how inconsiderate and blatantly rude the other person is, if your subject matter is boring, people will switch off. Whether work or social, don’t go straight into finite detail. Give an overview and if the other party wish to know more, tell them but at their invitation.
  • Tell them… Frustrating though it is, we often allow others to run away with the conversation. Once they see an opening, you’ve given them the opportunity. So rather than being rude in return, simply inform them “John, sorry, I hadn’t quite finished what I was saying”

From the group Leader

  • OpenForumIn group meetings, know who these strong characters are. Don’t supress their ideas but allow others to take to the stage first.
    • Start with those who will speak out but normally when addressed.
    • Then the quieter members, often the ‘thinkers’. Having a gem of an idea but don’t offer it for fear of being shouted down. They will likely follow the lead of some but will not speak out following more ‘assertive’ (or aggressive!) members.
    • FINALLY, offer the stage to the outspoken members. Throughout, control the conversation stopping these characters from railroading others!
    • Allow people to finish. Give them the floor up to the point they stop. When someone attempts to cut in, as the leader state “Hang on to that thought, I’ll get to you in a minute”, if they persist, be more forceful “Jane, let Mike finish. we will get to your point momentarily”

All too often, people’s passion takes over so courtesy and politeness go out of the window. Rather than treating this as an unacceptable behaviour or trying to shut someone up … change it!

Coaching to success see this behaviour all too being invited to act as arbitrators. If this is something you feel your organisation could benefit from, contact Neil on 07761 187238 or email to see what further ways we can help you and/or your business in getting the best from ALL contributors.