“I have an opinion, and you are entitled to it”

When does enthusiasm become a ‘wall of talking’? Some people love to share their knowledge, experiences and opinions. I’m all for it and I think I’m probably one of them. I also love to hear what other people have to say. However, when it becomes ‘one-way traffic’ I struggle. If enthusiasm for a subject overflows into a wall of talking, overwhelming the listener, with the speaker not even looking for a response, it’s gone too far. But what can you do about it?

Been there, Done that, Got the T-shirt. What has prompted this post is a recent experience with two experts. One of them I was paying to spend time with (who was excellent). The other person like me was a guest, but also ‘self identified’ as an expert. They did not shut up. It literally was, “I have an opinion, and you are entitled to it”. This was despite the attempts of the proper expert, and me. Although my attempts were rubbish, and mostly involved me walking away from the monologue, literally (I feel a bit guilty about that).

What it did remind me of was a trip to a volcano a while ago (the T-shirt picture is a clue). I know very little about vulcanology, so for the hour long journey to the volcano I inserted myself next to to the tour guide / minibus driver; the expert. I was looking forward to soaking up some expert knowledge and the experience of someone who ‘did volcano’s for a living’.

Unfortunately, the person who sat in the third front seat of the minibus was also an expert; but of the ‘self identified’ variety. What followed was the ‘self identified’ expert speaking relentlessly about their knowledge of a different volcano, in a different country and a vulcanologists I didn’t want or need to know about (I draw the line at Mr Spock).

The actual volcano expert struggled to get a word in edgeways and eventually gave up and concentrated on driving safely on the twisting mountain roads. I wonder if this may not have been their ‘first rodeo’? Had they experienced a ‘wall of talking’ expert client previously? Was ‘checking out’ just the easiest way to cope with it? A bit like my own strategy, it was easier to metaphorically ‘go for a walk’, rather than try and change what was going on?

Coping with the wall of sound… To my shame, I must admit that I’d never thought too deeply about why some people talk too much. I’d put a lot of it down to things like a lack of consideration for others, mansplaining, social anxiety or just good old rudeness and arrogance.

Having a dig around, inevitably there are a whole host of things that count as talking too much, and reasons why they might happen. I’m no psychologist, but these descriptions from Crystal Raypole on ‘healthline’ (medically reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon PhD MSN) help me to try and make sense of things:

  • Pressured Speech. Rapid, often forceful talking that is difficult to stop, even when other people try to get a word in (edgeways). People might talk at a faster pace than usual or even a higher volume. Possibly jumping from idea to idea so that listeners struggle to keep up. The article suggests that this behaviour can be linked to conditions like manic or hypermanic episodes. I’ve experienced some of what I now understand might have been Pressurised Speech. It leaves me thinking I could have been a bit more compassionate and thoughtful in my response.
  • Disorganised Speech. Often involves rapid switching between subjects, without any clear connection between the topics. Providing answers to questions that others consider entirely unrelated. Sometimes strings of random words that lack a clear connection. The article suggests that this might be linked to conditions like schizophrenia.
  • Rambling or excessive talking The article suggest that this can be linked to social anxiety. People fear saying the wrong thing or being judged by others, but end up talking more than they had intended in an effort to make up for the anxiety. A bit of a ‘vicious circle’ where the more you talk, the worse it gets. At the risk of ‘self diagnosis’, I think I can relate to this.
  • Hyperverbal. The article states that in this instance speech is is fast or of an increased speech which could be a symptom of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or anxiety.
  • Excessive talking about self. Some people talk A LOT about their achievements, their plans, their experiences or whatever is in their head (views and opinions). This article suggest that this might be liked to things like bipolar disorder or even narcissism.

As ever no answers. As usual I’ve ended up with more questions at the end than when I started thinking about this issue. It was easy to attribute a lot of the ‘wall of talking’ I’ve experienced as being due to pure rudeness or arrogance (possibly narcissism). Some of it will be. But it is inevitably more complex than that. What I’m left thinking is that I should be a bit more thoughtful and possibly kinder in the future – before I ‘go for a walk’.

Finally. Mansplaining – I’m not sure there are any excuses for mansplaining. Do have a look at this BBC Worklife article by Kim Goodwin, explaining Mansplaining in a single chart . The chart might even been worth downloading as a ‘cut out and keep’ quick reference guide. If anything in the chart triggers any feelings or back of the mind thoughts, stop, pause and reflect. You’re welcome, I’m here to help.

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. The ‘wall of talking’ that comes from some people might be happening for a multitude of reasons. Many of which they have little or no control over.
  2. How we respond needs to recognise that. It’s not always because they are rude, arrogant narcissists. So it might good to be a bit more kind and compassionate.
  3. Checking out and ‘going for a walk’, physically or mentally might be a reasonable coping strategy in a situation where you aren’t going to change what is going on.

Picture Credit. Mine. The Mount Etna t-shirt stall.

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

3 Responses

  1. Diolch o galon! So much to agree with, as always (I do suffer from several of the conditions mentioned. Have you ever spotted that?) Here are my notes on the same article (aka pos. what to try before walking away?) Some of these are easier than others. The science exists but is sparse and complex. My suggestions are just for me any may not be right for you. So take care to alter if you are trying them: Pressured speech – calm with invitation to collegiate silence and gentle movement, Disorganised speech – calm with pause to recollect topic, invite colleague to communicate through movement if preferred, Rambling or Hyper-verbal speech – pause, reassure (all is welcome, nothing incorrect), use safety position if necessary, Self-centred speech – pause for short (enforced if necc.) silence to collect topic, if reoccurs deliver clean message and walk away…. Notice that none of these can be attempted while driving!

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