Help, how do I stop talking over people?

I need a better system/script:

TL;TR. How can I stop/curb/transfigurate my habit of talking over people?

Yesterday I did the loud “loud white middle aged male schtick (with an extra helping of ADHD)” and it went badly.
Whoda thought? Well I’m sure it crossed my mind to not just blurt out whatever I was thinking but it was at such speed that it left itself embedded somewhere in my skull, but nowhere near my consciousness.

Context (please): I was at one of those ‘teaching at university x’ seminars with a bunch of people that I may never see again even though we all work for the same entity. It was in town so I thought to queze in a few errands (I have a broken fountain pen and wanted it fixed, unfortunately getting that done meant I arrived 5 minutes late to the opening, barge through the front door, exclaim ‘I’m late’ (no ‘sorry’ prefix, now that I think of it). The walk in the morning sun down the mall was awesome.

I took my newly found medication, dexamphetamine, in the hope it would make me more attentive. It’s been playing up on me lately and … maybe another time or other thread hey. Back to the seminar, about to sit on my own, and instead got invited to a table; lovely people. At some point comfort set in and I got chatty. One of the people next to me seemed to be an expert in teaching but I have this bad speech habit of starting my sentences with “No, but …” (or so my family tell me) as well as the “typical atypical” interrupting, talking over etc. By the end of the day, well I must have done something (not clear) that when I gave a general apology I got a “Well, don’t do that again. Ever!”. I know I did bad, would have been nice to know the specifics of what she meant by “that”.

Having established this as something I really need to work on for my own good and the good of those around me; any tips/hints/hacks/pointers are greatly and gratefully appreciated.



Hmmmmm . . .

Sounds very familiar!

It is a daily occurrence for me to talk over somebody or interrupt them as they are speaking. For me part of the problem is poor impulse control, along with letting my thoughts take priority over listening to the thoughts of others. I generally recognize what it is that I am doing but continue to do it on a daily basis. The medication’s that I take are primarily for depression and anxiety, but one of them, Lamictal / Lamotrigine (generic) presumably should help. Can’t say that meds work.

So the best I can do is sympathize with you!


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Thanks Barry,

knowing I’m not alone in this makes it easier.

let’s see if there’s anyone out there that has something that can help us both.


@lui , while I experience this “talking over people” phenomenon a lot less, I still do it sometimes. I think my motivation is different, thought.

I find that I do it when I need to respond to something before I lose my train of thought. I did this as least twice in a video call with my oldest daughter just last night. For me, I know this is based on my Inattentive traits, mixed with an emotional trigger (either a spike of fear about losing the thought before saying in, or excitement to share something that just crossed my mind…which I do recognize is an Impulsive trait).

In your case and Barry’s, I would suspect that the talking over people is an Impulsive trait. I understand that it’s commonly recognized among ADHDers who have the Hyperactive-Impulsive or Combined presentation.

Medication might help you to have some control, but because this is a behavior we’re talking about, then the treatment probably also needs a behavioral intervention.

I think that this is the sort of issue that Dialectical Behavioral Therapy would be able to help with. DBT is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that’s more targeted. One of the uses of DBT is to train behaviors ahead of time (like pre-season football drills), so that you respond in the way you want to at the moment it’s needed (at game time).

Learning DBT requires working with a therapist who is trained with the technique.

Other things that I believe might help…

Journaling - write about what happened, and go in-depth to reflect on the moment, what was happening on different levels, and what was happening just before. For example, when arriving at the meeting, and interrupting by saying “I’m late!”:

  • What were you experiencing in that moment?
  • What thoughts were in you mind? Were you obsessing in a thought spiral over being late, like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland (only without the entertaining elements of that scene).
  • What emotions were you feeling, and why? (You were possibly feeling things like: shame or embarrassment over being late, anger towards yourself &/or others for making you late, excitedness or elation about something that just happened, anxiousness or trepidation about the subject of that meeting…or all of the above.)
  • What was going on with you physically? Were you feeling hot or sweaty from rushing? Could you tell if your heart rate was elevated.

Often when I arrive at an important meeting late, I am in an elevated emotional and physical state (heart racing), and I might be stuck in a thought spiral.
On some of those occasions, I’ve realized my state and had the presence of mind to stop for a moment to calm myself down (i.e. mindfulness). (I’ll probably have my hand on the door handle when I do this, unless it’s a glass door or there are others waiting to go through, in which case I’ll step off to the side.):

  • I might acknowledge my situation verbally by saying something (usually in my head, not out loud) like, “you’re already late…take a few seconds to breathe…a few seconds won’t really make you much later”.
  • I’ll take a deep breath, close my eyes, will myself to calm down a bit, exhale, open my eyes, and then enter (with an apology ready on my lips, if I can muster it).

It’s maybe as much as 1/4 of the time that I think to do this, at best. With some conscious practice, I might someday get this up over half the time. I just don’t expect the late-to-meeting jitters will ever leave me. I’m currently 47, and I know I’ve been this way at least since I was 12, so while I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with it, I recognize that it’s part of how I am.

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Yup, been there too. Being aware of it is the first step. Being aware it might hurt someone is the only way I’ve found to stop myself, so I look in the eyes of the people I respect to look for warning signs, my friends know I’m about to blurt something out, they’ll stop me.

For me understanding what makes me tick, what motivates me, helps me understand WHY I want to jump in and say X. Great therapy, including trauma therapy helped me.

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Thanks JD,

I think the DBT you mentioned is definitely a goer, I’ve heard something like this before when it comes to situations that you may have experienced freeze or flight in the moment, where away from the event you reflect and decide consciously, to try something different and then reimagine the memory of the event playing out where you have more gumption/courage etc.

I also have to admit I went in with a bit of a litmus test mentality yesterday, letting me be me and seeing what the result would be. I didn’t think I’d crash and burn so much. So maybe next time the litmus test (I know I can be more that a little bit cheeky that way) Next time I’ll to stick with writing lots of things down and keeping as much as possible to myself and seeing how that goes. Hopefully I only let the odd “special comment” slip through rather than being a firehose of random content.

On a good day I can do the whole “how to win friends and influence people” thing just by being genuinely curious about other people, so maybe that’s another tack I could take: just have a script of questions I like asking people and select from that.

Let’s see how that goes hey?

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Yeah there were warning signs that I was pushing the envelope, and that the person in question was a bit on the “I’m the expert here don’t mess with my authority!” mind set which is to be expected at a university. I do feel there is something in just thrashing out an idea from the point of view of let’s just beat it (the idea) out.

matter of fact I recently heard on one my favourite podcasts You 2.0: How to Open Your Mind | Hidden Brain Media that the Wright brothers argued constantly, about products and business to the point that after two days of arguing over propeller designs their sister threatened to leave them. But they never took it personally, it was just about the product. Of course it takes a little more effort if you have Rejection Sensitivity issues (which I think I have) to get into that frame of mind.

thanks for this.

What I learned from my therapist is that when you over talk, it’s best to keep to one word or one phrase responses. If someone asks how you’re doing, you just have to say “good” instead of launching into an essay on every single thing in your life. It does take practice, though. :stuck_out_tongue:

I like it, for the record I’ve taken to responding to the “how are you?” with “Awesome”, leaving it to the listener to judge about it’s veracity. For my own entertainment though I do vary the intonation and delivery. The pause, looks at watch, then responds in a monotone delivery “awesome” is a favourite of both mine and the audience, more often than not I’ll just squeeze one out in a quivery questioning tone.

The other benefit I’ve found with this one is that on a really shit day for me, faking a confident “Awesome!” with a stranger makes their day (as some have ventured to tell me) so it then lifts my mood and stops it being just about me.

My motivation for using Awesome, well let’s just leave that bit out. I think I’ve said enough :wink:


Yeah my response to “how are you” is usually… “well I’m vertical!” Which allows us both to laugh thst off as a positive

I find ppl are more tolerant post covid of admitting things aren’t great!


That sounds like a fabulous strategy to try.

Being genuinely curious about other people and what they are talking about is advice I’ve come across in various domains.

  • Originally from success books like “How to Win Friends…”,
  • Also about work (particularly in customer support),
  • About school (you learn better when you’re genuinely curious about the class subject matter),
  • Even in church,
  • And most recently about relationships (said by marriage research guru Dr. John Gottman as advice to all couples…“Stay curious about each other.”)
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