Communication Skills/How do i learn to shut up


QUESTION: I have this problem where i talk too much. It isnt a matter of me being self absorbed, i dont talk about myself, but i like to talk about things in general. My family is really hard on me about it, they say i talk too much, ill admit i am talkative, but how do i break this habit? i find that it goes hand in hand with my constant facebook updates. I recently added a time block that blocks me out for 12 hours at a time to help me quit for fear of annoying people.

But again, how do i work towards talking less and listening more? i worry that the behavior will be so forced that it will never become second nature to me and that recieving communication with me will be stressed and forced. Please help me with this. ive found only unclear answers elsewhere.

ANSWER: Hi Courtney - you have an interesting problem. I need more info before offering an answer.

1] generally, WHY do you talk so much - what need/s are you filling? [a] give or get info / [b] cause action. [c] avoid awkward silence, [d] maintain your relationship, or [e] need to vent.

2] What do you feel would happen if you were much briefer?

3] pick a recent typical conversation and try "mapping it": What do you notice?

4] does it make any difference who your talking with? [males / females / friends / relatives / strangers  / older people...]

5] read this description of "awareness bubbles." Then reflect: typically, what type of bubble do you have with other people?

6] Typically, how often do you repeat yourself?

Overall, I suggest you change your goal from "shutting up" to "becoming more aware."

Let me know your answers - Pete

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I repeat myself alot due to lack of percieved reception. Thats a big one for me, i usually talk to give or get info. I talk about myself to fix things about me. Its usually relatives or friends. It usually doesnt matter: i do get quieter around heavy topics though. I feel like my words would hold more weight if i spoke less and that i would be more likeable to be around.

ANSWER: OK, thanks. Please answer questions 2, 5, and 3 above, in that order. - Pete

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: 2. I feel that people would think i am talking down to them less. Thats completely not my intention. I elaborate because i think it helps people understand better, instead i worry that i get obnoxious. I feel that more people would listen to me and my words would hold more weight.

5. I usually have my own bubble where i am worried about myself. FIxing myself somehow, unless i am talking to my boyfriend i tend to keep things more brief with him and worry about him more.

3. I noticed when i mapped it out, that whenever the other person spoke and i knew something about the topic, i would speak 3x more than they did. I tend to get carried away and try humoring people with my experiences

OK - thanks for your answers. In my opinion, if you want to talk less, you'll have to change some basic things:

1] before you speak in important situations, ask yourself "What does the other person need from me" From what you wrote, you often [a] assume what they need [e.g. more information] or [b] you're unaware of what they need.

2] practice mentally identifying what "R[espect]-message you're sending. It sounds to me like you're often unconsciously sending "I'm 1-up". which will offend your listeners. See

3] Learn what communication "flooding" is [speaking too much info too fast], and ask important people to tell you if you're flooding them. If they're flooded, most people stop listening.

4] In important situations, learn to use the skill of communication awareness -  Pay special attention to creating a two-person awareness bubble;

5] If you're really motivated to communicate more effectively, study online "lesson 2" here You may need to study "lesson 1" first.

Overall, consider these ideas

If you have questions about any of these suggestions, please ask! - Pete

Communication Skills

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about how to significantly improve your thinking and communication effectiveness, and your relations with adults and kids. I cannot answer legal, medical, grammar, punctuation, spelling, or spiritual questions.


I have studied and taught communication and relationship skills for 40 years, and have been a professional family-systems therapist (MSW) since 1981.


I am a past Board member of (a) a large suburban community mental-health center and (b) the Stepfamily Association of America, and I am a current member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council

I have published 6 books, including one on communication skills: Satisfactions ( 2nd ed., 2010); and over 150 articles in the nonprofit educational Website Break the Cycle! -

I have also published articles for and over 150 educational YouTube videos.

BSME, Stanford University, 1959 MSW, George Williams College 1981 Clinical internship U. of Illinois Institute for Juvenile Reasearch (IJR) 1981 Over 100 post-grad courses on a wide range of human-relationship topics

Past/Present Clients
over 1,000 self-referred Midwestern-U.S. adults, kids, couples, and families

©2016 All rights reserved.