Sage Advice: Overly Talkative Wife
Dealing with the issue of constant verbal noise
Dear Amy: I love and respect my wife. But we can’t converse because she is always talking. When we go out with friends her verbal domination exhausts everyone. She repeats generally well-worn childhood stories. Her style is intense, yet repetitive, and endlessly meandering. She conducts a running monologue when others attempt to get a word in edgewise.
If I have an interesting experience? She jumps in to tell my story. Alone together, she’ll ask me a question then respond before I can answer.
Can you discern the root cause of this over-talking behavior? Can you recommend some non-confrontational encouragements toward conversational calm, or will my meaningful conversations always be found outside my marriage?
– Seldom Heard
Dear Seldom: This seems to be an increasingly common frustration.
My theory is that we are currently experiencing a cultural shift away from listening. If garrulous over-talkers can train themselves to be energetic and active listeners, their annoying habit will gradually shift. Active listening will also open their hearts, improve their relationships, and enrich their lives in unexpected ways.
In a healthy marriage, partners can offer respectful feedback and correction. This sort of feedback can be hard to hear, especially if you’re not a listener. But you should offer your wife the opportunity to change.
Tell her, “Honey, this habit of yours makes me feel disrespected. You are silencing me. I’m embarrassed when you interrupt and talk over me in public. At home, I feel more and more alone. It is having a huge impact on my happiness. Are you willing to work on this?”
Expect your wife to react defensively. Press on, lovingly.
Try using a “listening stick.” You two can do this at the dinner table. Take an object in your hand. Agree that only the person holding the object may speak. This will make her conscious of how her mind races to verbally dominate. Don’t hand her the talking stick until you have finished your thought. Has she heard you, or is she simply waiting for you to finish? Ask her if she can repeat or respond to what you’ve just said.
Every single time she interrupts you, tell her, “You’re interrupting me. Please, let me finish my thought.” Make eye contact. Your wife’s bad habit has been a lifetime in the making. Changing this habit will take time, effort and patience.
I highly recommend the book, “The Lost Art of Listening, Second Edition: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships,” by psychologist and professor Michael P. Nichols (2009, The Guilford Press).
In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068
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