Recently Kish and I went to a show at Schiller Park. We positioned our lawn chairs at the best available spot, sat down to wait for the show to begin, and then endured about 25 minutes of the woman sitting directly in front of us talking, non-stop and loudly, to the woman sitting to her left. We weren’t eavesdropping, either — anyone who was sitting within a 15-foot radius couldn’t avoid overhearing her monologue.
What was she talking about? It was a rambling story about driving somewhere, with people the woman to the left clearly didn’t know, because the talker had to keep explaining who was who. Since we came in mid-gab, we don’t know how the story began. All we know is that the woman to the left said not one word, while the talker went on, and on, and on, telling a story with no apparent point or purpose. Only the start of the show finally, blessedly, shut her up.
What, exactly, makes some people talk too much? It’s hard to understand for those of us who don’t. As we walked home and considered the astonishing torrent of blather, Kish and I concluded that the woman must have been either stupid, for thinking that her pointless tale would have been of interest to anyone, or totally clueless, for not recognizing that she was boring the snot out of the woman she was talking to — or maybe both.
Interestingly, psychologists can’t seem to put their finger on exactly what causes compulsive talking. Constant chatter is one of the recognized symptoms of people who have ADHD. Some compulsive talkers are manic. Breathless yakking also is associated with anxiety disorders, where people simply can’t deal with companionable silence and feel the urge to talk, talk, talk to avoid any gaps in the conversation. Some articles link compulsive talking with narcissism and power relationships, where the talker believes their conversation must be intrinsically fascinating and keeps talking as a means of maintaining control. And there is even a recognized mental condition, called logorrhea, in which people talk constantly and, often, incoherently.
Whatever the psychological cause might be, exposure to a compulsive talker is a useful exercise, because it makes you reflect on your own speech patterns and tendencies. Our experience with the nonstop chatterbox reminded us that it’s important to shut up, take a breath, and listen to what others have to say every once in a while.