Talking Too Much And Too Quickly When You're Nervous

If you think of someone who's nervous in social situations you probably imagine them as being quiet and inhibited. That's often the case, but some people have the opposite problem when they're anxious: They talk too much. They speak really quickly. They ramble. A part of them realizes they've got verbal diarrhea, but they can't get themselves to stop. They say dumb things without thinking, and beat themselves up over it later.

Here are some ways to deal with that issue. I'm going to focus on when you speak too much and too fast in day to day conversations, not speeches or job interviews, though many of the ideas below will apply to them as well.

Figure out what situations set off your nervous babbling

You likely don't anxiously speak a mile a minute around everyone. The first step is to pay attention and get a better sense of when the problem crops up. What combination of people and context makes you talk too much? Here are some common ones:

So someone might have no problem chatting to their friends about everyday stuff, but if they believe they've messed up and offended one of them, they'll get flustered and start talking quickly and less-coherently as they try to apologize and patch things up.

Use general methods to reduce your anxiety

If you can lower your anxiety in the moment, even a bit, it will remove some of the nervous energy that's compelling you to talk too fast and inarticulately. You could do some slow, deep breathing to center yourself, or try to mindfully sit with your anxious sensations and let them pass. I can't fit an entire anxiety reduction course into one paragraph, but this section of the site goes into more detail.

Examine the beliefs that feed your urge to anxiously ramble

Fast-paced babbling can come purely from having anxious energy. For some people nerves cause their brains to lock up, and they have trouble thinking of things to say. For others being jittery fills their mind with thoughts, along with an urge to say them right now.

However, there are often assumptions and beliefs that tie into talking too quickly. If you can identify any of these beliefs you hold, then submit them to some scrutiny, you may feel less need to go on and on and on when you're nervous. Again, here are some common ones:

Some counterproductive beliefs lose their power soon after you become aware of them, apply some basic skepticism, and stop unquestionably following them ("Wait, why did I always assume that More = Better when explaining myself? Of course I shouldn't overwhelm people with information.") Others beliefs will still feel true after analyzing them, even if you logically know they're false. But by being aware of them you now have the option of deciding to act against what they're telling you, even if it feels wrong on some level ("My gut is still telling me I have to talk a lot to be likable, but I'm going to slow down anyway.")

Get more comfortable with the situations that set off your nervous babbling

Does a lull in a conversation make you really uneasy? Do you get an irresistible urge to say something, anything to fill the dead air, even if it means people are going to think you have verbal diarrhea? You can work to gradually get used to the situations that trigger your nerves. If you hate awkward silences, try sitting with one for a moment before trying to break it. You'll likely realize the awkwardness won't destroy you, and that someone else may say something before long.

Become more skilled in the situations that cause you to anxiously talk too much

You're less likely to get nervous in the first place in a situation if you know how to navigate it. To continue with the awkward silence example, if you know lots of ways to keep a conversation going or gracefully deal with a lull if one occurs, you have less reason to feel everything's gone wrong, then talk, talk, talk in an ill-fated attempt to to fix the damage.

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Figure out if there are any other factors that may be contributing to your tendency to talk too quickly, ramble, or speak without thinking

This article is about nervous babbling, but other things sometimes cause people to speak too fast, not be concise, or put their foot in their mouth.

Personal background / circumstances

Developmental and mental health conditions

Substances

You can't directly do something about all of these, but change what you can. Like you may realize you're more likely to speak rapid fire when you've drank too much coffee. Or if you find the right ADHD medication you may find you're better at putting your thoughts together.

Practice speaking more slowly

It sounds too straightforward, but one of the best ways to learn to speak less quickly is to make a deliberate effort to slow down:

You don't have to start practicing in real conversations. You can begin by recording yourself on your phone or computer. After that you could role play with a friend, family member, or therapist.

Talking more slowly feels forced and unnatural at first, but you get used to it. Even when you're distracted by your nerves, you can learn to speak at a more natural pace. Keep at it, go easy on yourself, and don't expect to do everything perfectly the first time.

Practice being more concise

One facet of nervous babbling is talking too quickly. The other is going on and on and on. You can also work at being more concise.

Ask people you know to point out when you're talking too fast or for too long

You can tell them you want to work on your habit of nervously rambling, and you'd appreciate it if they politely signaled to you when you're speaking too quickly or going on and on without getting to the point.

Learn to be a good sport and apologize if you start rambling or speaking too quickly

This won't improve your tendency to nervously babble at the root, but it can take some pressure off if you know that if you start doing it you can gracefully recover. If you catch yourself anxiously talking too much, stop, then make a casual, matter-of-fact comment like:

After that, move on, and try to slow down. If you make a quick apology people will tend to accept it and get back to the conversation. You don't need to make a huge production out of how much you think you screwed up.