My son, the other blogger on this site asked me to answer the question: How have you normally dealt with a person who just won’t stop talking? A conversation dominator in counseling? So here goes!
One answer to that question is the one I observed Bob Newhart giving on his television program when counseling a woman who said she was panic struck by the thought of being buried in a box. When this woman told him her problem he asked her if she was ready for the answer. She said she was and then asked if she should write his answer down. Newhart said that he didn’t think she’d need to do that because his answer would be only two words and he thought that most people could remember the two words without writing them down. Then he said, “Here are the two words: Stop it.” When she tried to bring up other problems he would either say, “We don’t go there” or “Stop it.”So my advice to the counselor who has a person who won’t stop talking is that he/she should say and keep saying, “Stop it” or “We don’t go there.”
Actually I’m just joking in what I just wrote. In reality, Newhart’s solution is only a part (the last part) of what I would do. There is much that I would do prior to using the Newhart technique. Before I lovingly and yet forthrightly told this person to “stop it” I would want to investigate this persons reason for wanting to dominate the conversation. Proverbs 18:13 warns us about answering a matter before we have really investigated what is going on. There may be many reasons why a person dominates the conversation in counseling and you can be fairly sure that if that person dominates the conversation in the counseling session they are also doing that outside the counseling session. This person’s behavior in counseling then becomes a counseling issue with which the counselor must deal.
Here are some of the most common reasons why a person may dominate conversations in or out of the counseling session:
1). Pride – Romans 12:3; 3 John 9, 10; Prov. 18:2;
2). Selfishness – lack of love for God and others – 2 Tim. 3:2;
3). Fear of silence, not wanting to appear dumb – Prov. 29:25;
5). Past training – parental influence, example, neglect;
6). Poor listening habits on the part of other people or on the part of the speaker;
7). Desire to control what is discussed thereby avoid talking about unpleasant issues – avoidance technique;
8). Desire to force other person into submission, convince, overpower;
9). Ignorance of the harm it does – Prov. 17:9;
10). Frustration, anger, desire to punish the other person;
11). Most important reason why some people overtalk = impure heart – Mark 7:21-23; Luke 6:43-45.
That brings us to the issue of how to help a person overcome the problem of talking too much or, in biblical terms, the problem of being a “babbling fool” (Proverbs 10:8, 19 in or out of the counseling session. Here are several suggestions:
1). Identify that the person has a problem in this area – mention your observation and give reasons for your observation.
2). Then ask them whether or not they recognize that they are doing this.
3). Then ask them to answer the question why they think they are doing this? Help them to identify the reason for their overtalk – why do you think you practice overtalk?
4). Have them read chapter 7 in Your Family God’s Way and take the inventory about the forms of overtalk at the end of the chapter and also have them complete the inventory about the reasons for overtalk at the end of the chapter.
5). Have them study and reflect on the Scriptures that deal with overtalk such as Proverbs 10:8,19; 17:9; 15:28; Ephesians 5:3,4.
6). Have them memorize such verses as Ephesians 4:29; Proverbs 17:9; Proverbs 10:19; 12:23; 17:27, 28 and review these verses regularly.
7). For a period of time have them keep a daily journal in which at the end of the day they evaluate their communication efforts in terms of times they dominated and why they did it.
8). Remind them that overtalk that violates biblical principles is sin. .
9). Tell them that if they practice overtalk that violates biblical principles and if their reasons for overtalk are sinful, they must confess their sin to God, ask Him for forgiveness and help.
10). Instruct them to make themselves accountable to someone else who will remind them when you are guilty of overtalk.
11). Give them an assignment to memorize and regularly pray the prayer of the Psalmist – Psalm 19:14; Psalm 141:3
12). Have them memorize and regularly pray the prayer of Elizabeth Eliot.
“Lord, deliver me from the urge to open my mouth when I should shut it. Give me wisdom to keep silent when silence is wise. Remind me that not everything needs to be said and that there are very few things that need to be said by me.”
13). Explain and apply the truth of Matthew 12:34, 36, 37 and Proverbs 4:23; 27:19 to them.
“The mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart…Every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you shall be justified and by your words you shall be condemned.”
Ask them what they think these texts mean and how they apply to them. Make sure you tell them that these texts mean that our words are important; that they mean God listens to our speech and remembers what we say; they means if they are violating God’s will in this area by dominating conversations of life they should want to change. These texts mean that if we are violating His will to our attention we will be concerned about it and that if we are guilty of overtalk in any of the ways we’ve mentioned and for any of the reasons we’ve mentioned we’ll want to change because this kind of behavior is displeasing to God and because it will hinder our relationships with and our godly impact on other people.
These texts mean that if our behavior violates God’s Word the ultimate problem is not with our behavior; it is with our hearts. They mean that change must begin in the heart through recognizing the problem, confession, repentance, faith, prayer, meditation on God’s Word, getting their heart cleansed from sinful motives and filling their hearts with godly thoughts and desires and disciplining themselves to put off this unbiblical behavior and put on godly speech patterns through practice – Matthew 12:34; Proverbs 4:23; James 4:8; I Timothy 4:7.
Then after working though all of these issues in counseling if they still continue the practice of dominating the conversation in counseling you may use the Newhart technique and say with emphasis, “Stop it” and “We don’t go there” because it is displeasing to God and will hinder your effectiveness and fruitfulness for Him in this world.