David Leser on the plague of talkatives

Credit: Project Twins/

Much many years ago, I fell in love with a friend because of his partner and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. I remember he dated two women for a few months and one evening, after a few drinks, he asked me who I thought was a better match for him.

The first woman, Virginia*, was a consultant originally from South Africa who came here on vacation from Canada. The second is the lively Rebecca* from Hobart. In retrospect, the correct answer should have been obvious: “Not sure. Which do you think? And then, “look at that wonderful bunch of red roses.”

Instead, I immediately said: “Virginia.”

“Why?” my friend asked.

“Because Rebecca never stops talking.”

My friend ended up choosing Rebecca – but in the end he not only chose Rebecca but also married Rebecca. And, of course, he told Rebecca what I said.

Our friendship never fully recovered, and – as you can imagine – my relationship with Rebecca remained strained for decades.

But the problem (aside from not asking – or answering – pre-loaded questions) is this: There are people who talk too much and we all know them. People who talk a lot. They talk when they have nothing to say. They speak when they have everything to say but they are the only ones who say it. They don’t seem to realize that there are other people in the room who can help with the burden of the conversation, because for some inexplicable reason, they feel obligated to shoulder the burden themselves. They go on, unceasingly, unstoppable, unstoppable.

And if you manage to get a word out by throwing yourself into a crevice of conversation, they’ll stop – somewhat surprised you exist – before continuing exactly where they left off.


Psychologically, it is called logorrhoea and it comes from Greek. logomeaningful words and diarrhea, which means flow. In its worst form, it’s a never-ending stream of words often associated with brain injury. In its more everyday form, it is the need to speak continuously without the corresponding need to listen.

Or let even ask a single question! In fact, that’s not entirely true. They ask questions. They just don’t want answers.

“So, how are you going?” an old friend would say. Before I begin to shape the answer, he’ll come out of the block again: “Enough about you anyway, get back to me.” That would be pretty funny if he wasn’t serious.

First rule of conversation etiquette make sure it’s a two-way street, not a one-way alley. There are amber lights, speed bumps, and flowerbeds to be observed, but for some reason the talkative can’t take his feet off the pedals. In fact, they seem happy to take down any pedestrians that get in their way, especially if they’re talking under influence.

I know another man who is so brilliant, no subject on earth seems to surpass him. Quantum physics? Listen to his new theory on entanglement. Pre-selection of the Labor Party? He is a regular at national conferences. Miley Cyrus’ four-album deal with Hollywood Records? Don’t let him start.

Have this man sit at a dinner party for 10 and just watch the oxygen come out of the room. Two of the guests will have their elbows cut before the main course; four more people will fall, dumbfounded, into their dessert bowls, and the other three will stare at the melting candle wax as if psilocybin entrée had just been tossed in.

Will this man notice? Are not. He has a lot to say and only a limited amount of time to say it; onwards, he’ll skyrocket, mistaking the restrained polite smiles for concern, even fascination.

Then there are interrupters who can be one and the same as disagreers. Not only will they never let you finish a sentence, but they will never agree with any of your utterances.

You might gently suggest: “The Beatles released a lot of albums in seven years.

“No, they don’t, what makes you say that?”

Then there’s one-uppers. “Have you been robbed in Marrakesh? … Yes, it’s difficult. Actually I was robbed And kidnapped in Casablanca.”

Sometimes it’s just turning the conversation back to themselves, which is of course what narcissists do.

“Your whole family was killed in a car accident? What a pity. My goldfish died, so I went through this grief as well.”

How much is about gender? Much. Most women I know are amazed at the number of men, especially older men, who will be comfortable talking to them.

A friend told me: “Like the sound of a female voice is a basic type of signal for many men. “In the boardroom, you’ll see guys immediately start looking at their phones when a woman starts speaking. Or at dinner they’ll turn away and start a private conversation, maybe about something as important as the offside rule in football.”

That’s not half of it. I would bet a large sum that there is hardly a woman in this country who hasn’t gone on a first date a) dumbfounded by how many things men say about her, and b) amazed to the fact that he hadn’t asked her for a single date. question.

So what’s behind This epidemic of talking too much and seemingly pervasive inability to ask questions or listen properly? Are we living in a skate-hugging culture and the fact that our devices have created collective attention deficit disorder, along with the spread of self-absorption?

Is this some kind of Tourette Syndrome where nonstop talking is a neurological glitch that can’t be turned off? Is it a grandiose ego that claims to have the right to dominate a room and go to hell with others?

Or, as Arundhati Roy observed in her 1997 novel, God of little thingsthat people become “babblers” because of fear, and that they suppress this fear by “babbling” constantly.

Perhaps so – the fear of silence that the Nigerian writer Ayòbámi Adébáiò also spoke of. “I was overwhelmed by the urge to fill every silence with words,” she says. “The silence for me is a void in the universe that can suck us all in. My mission is to stop this deadly void with words and save the world.” Babbling like a cure to save the planet.

Here’s another way to potentially save the world, all talkatives. Stop. Pause. Listen. really listen. Don’t just organize your arguments while the other person is speaking so you can tear them down when they’re finished (in fact, if you let them finish). Conversations revolve around taking turns, and it’s great to listen, you can really learn something from listening.


John Clarke, the great New Zealand-born comedian, satirist and writer, is a legendary communicator. His collaborator and fellow writer Bryan Dawe claims to have had a three-and-a-half-day conversation with him; while the other friends remember can put down the phone, make a cup of tea and turn around to find Clarke still drunk.

But here’s the thing. Clarke loves not only to talk, but also to listen – to all types of people, from all walks of life. He was curious and attached to the radical view that the conversation involved many people.

A colleague of mine recommended Clarke to this magazine many years ago. She still remembered how much Clarke loved the idea of ​​talking. “He said that having a great conversation is like floating down a river together, that conversation goes much further when it is allowed to flow.

“If someone is constantly interrupting the flow to disagree or point out why you are wrong, if they continue to steer the boat into conversation or to pull the rudder, then things will go wrong. going nowhere.”

That is the case with a lot of exchanges today. They are not real conversations because there are no mind games, no heart games, no signs of mutual interest or concern.

Nor is there any permission for the rhetoric of silence, which has its own music.

* Identity has been changed.

To read more words Nice weekend magazine, visit our page at Sydney Morning Newspaper, Age And Brisbane Times.


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