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Have you ever felt trapped in a conversation? Maybe you had another commitment you had to get too, or maybe the other person just keeps droning on and on and on? Maybe you want to listen, but at this point they sound like an adult from a Charlie Brown Christmas Special (waaa, waaa, waa, wa, wa, waa)

Proverbs 18:2 describes people like this:

“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.”

This proverb is not a license to ignore people. Verse 13 of the same Proverb makes it clear that God does want us to listen to people.

“He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.”

We must listen to people enough to understand what they are trying to communicate. The problem is that some people keep talking long after they have said what they need to say. It is at this point we need to ask God to help us to respond in love.

I find myself at this point trying to restrain the growing urge to yell “fire” and run screaming from the room. This is probably not what Jesus would do. What I need to do is ask God to show me how to best help them. To do this I need to know what they need. The “long talkers” (which I will heretofore refer to as “LT”) may sound the same but have very different needs. For example the Apostle Paul describes how to help different people who have different needs.

1 Thess. 5:14
“We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”

If the LT needs to be admonished because they are choosing a wrong path it is probably not helpful for them just to continue talking on and on after they have communicated their situation. You may need to help them stop taking so you can give them guidance from God’s Word.

If the LT is fainthearted it may genuinely encourage them to have someone listen to them share their experience and feelings. You may want to take more time to listen to this person (if you don’t have enough time at that moment you may want to schedule a time in the near future to offer the encouragement of a listening ear). You will find this is often the case for someone who has suffered a significant recent loss in their life. To be able to speak with someone helps them process their grief.

If the LT is weak, you may need them to stop talking so you can get on with helping them. Hint: a great way to help people may be to pray for them right then and there.

But when you’ve determined it would help them to stop talking, how do you help them stop? I have found it’s usually not well received when I suddenly begin shouting “shut up!”

What I have found to be helpful is the following:

  • Wait for them to pause (if you wait long enough they will eventually have to breath).
  • Reflect back to them a summary of what they said (i.e. “So if I understand you correctly, what you’re saying is…. “)
  • Transition into what you think would best help them

When you summarize what you understood them to say you communicate that you valued them and what they’re going through enough to listen and understand them. Once they know that they matter to you it is easier to transition to something like:

“… could I take a minute and prayer for you?”

or

“… could I share something with you that I think might be of help?”

or even

“… I’m really sorry you’re going through that. I promised someone I would _______________ so I’m going to need head out now, but I will continue to pray for you as the Lord brings you to mind.”

It’s easy to just be irritated with people who talk too much, but ask God to help you to help them (even it it means helping them stop talking).