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Facilitating group discussions
Facilitating group discussions

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6.2 Over-talkers

An individual supplies excessive detail or is over talkative and dominating the session.

The challenge

  • Individuals who can’t limit how much they talk.
  • People who provide a level of detail that isn’t needed or appropriate to the situation.
  • Group members who are oblivious to what others want to hear.

What’s really going on

  • Some people have an inflated sense of their own importance.
  • Some people simply love to hear themselves talk.
  • Dysfunctional talkers are often oblivious to what others need to hear.
  • Over-talking may be a ploy to get attention or to gain control.
  • Some people are simply insensitive to the needs or behaviours of others.

Facilitator pitfalls

  • Not checking with the rest of the group to determine what they need to hear.
  • Failing to establish guidelines for presentations.
  • Standing by and allowing over-talkers to continue past pre-set time limits.
  • Using overly harsh or judgemental language when intervening.
  • Coming across as unsure when asking over-talkers to curtail their comments.

Intervention strategies

  • Help the group set clear time limits for each presentation.
  • Appoint one of the group members to act as timekeeper and periodically call out milestones.
  • Help the group establish guidelines for each presentation:

    Before the presentations begin, let’s talk about the level of detail people need and some of the specific questions you want to have answered.

  • Ask the group to establish a targeted norm/ground rule at the start of any meeting where you suspect over-talking might occur:

    We’ve got a really tight agenda today. What commitments do we each need to make to honour our time-frames?

  • Help over-talkers correct themselves by offering them specific feedback:

    You’ve been giving us a lot of implementation details rather than offering an overview of project goals. Please refocus your presentation to be in line with the guidelines we set earlier.

  • If the over-talker shows no sign of self-control, stop him or her and check with the rest of the group:

    I’m going to stop you and check with the rest of the group to make sure this is the right time to hear more of your report.

  • Firmly point out that the group members are violating their time limits, and clearly state what you want them to do:

    You’re now five minutes over your allotted time. I'm concerned others won’t get a chance to present. Please wrap up.

  • If none of the above interventions has an impact, take over-talkers aside and give them feedback in a way that encourages them to take responsibility for their actions in future meetings:

    At today’s meeting, you ran over by 20 minutes, even though I asked you to end your presentation twice. This threw the meeting seriously off schedule. I need a commitment from you to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future.