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In the last couple of places I've worked, I've found there is at least one person in my department that just won't stop talking, once I get them started. What typically happens is that I'll go over to ask them a quick question, which should take no more than 5-10 minutes to answer, but then, once they start talking, they just go on ... and on ... and on, and before I know it, I've been there for 30-45 minutes, with them pretty much monologue-ing, despite me giving only very limited/brief responses or nods and despite clear body-language signals that I have other things I need to do.

So, I'm wondering what is the best way to break away, whilst still being respectful and not offending them?

I am aware that there have been some other questions asked before about colleagues that talk too much in the office; however, what I am looking for are not long-term solutions to the general problem of other people talking too much in the office, but specifically how to tactfully break away in that moment, when someone is trying to 'suck you into their bubble'. How can I ask that quick question and get away, without being 'tractor-beamed'?

  • Are they discussing work-related matters or going off on a tangent? – cheshire Jul 16 '18 at 22:03
  • @cheshire it usually starts out as work-related, but often goes off on a tangent to non work-related matters. I had a Manager once, where everyone knew, if they went into his office for anything, they would be there for at least an hour. Going in there for less than an hour simply wasn't possible, lol – Time4Tea Jul 17 '18 at 17:17
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Two approaches I can think of:

  1. Before asking them your question, consider starting with something like

    Hey Joe, how are you? I am in a hurry and have a quick question for you, got some time?

    Then proceed to ask the question, and when you are satisfied say "Thanks Joe. I'll chat with you later, I really need to finish this ASAP.", and go back to your desk.

  2. Don't do the intro. Ask your question(s), and when you are satisfied or they start chatting more time than what you can spare, proceed with the "Thanks Joe. I'll chat with you later, I really need to finish this ASAP."

It would be best to drop that phrase after the finish a sentence and before they start the other, or when they take a pause. If that is not possible because they are really talkative, perpend a "Sorry for the interruption, but...".

You can use variants to the phrasing to better fit your office environment and your relationship with Joe.

  • Thanks, this type of approach could be worth a try. Although, it might start to get a little obvious/suspicious if I do it every single time I need to speak to him. – Time4Tea Jul 17 '18 at 17:18
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    @Time4Tea then perhaps consider "keeping your promise" and chat with him later, when you all are not with tight schedules or have some free time :) Eventually, this person may learn to save the chat for water cooler moments and not work-related inquiries – DarkCygnus Jul 17 '18 at 17:22

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