How to Politely Tell Someone to Shut Up

There are times when you may be too busy to continue a conversation with someone. At other times, you may be trying to make a point and the other individual might not be listening. For various reasons, you may have to politely tell someone to shut up.

To successfully tell someone to shut up, you must first emphasize that you have understood what was said so far, but you will now proceed with another activity. If the mood is irritable, turn to someone else or leave the situation.

English Speaking Practice || Making...
English Speaking Practice || Making Polite Requests
Emphasize That You Understand Their Point

Some people are long-winded and it can become annoying. At some point, you’ll need to interject with these individuals and let them know that you understand the point they’re trying to make.

It’s better to do this sooner rather than later. When you’re relatively calm, you can firmly state that they need to stop talking, without getting very emotional. However, once annoyance sets in this may creep into your voice.

If you find yourself clenching your fists or clenching your jaw while you’re speaking to the other person it’s a sign that you need to exit the conversation as soon as you can. If you see any of those physical signs in the other person, that’s also a sign that the nature of the conversation is changing, the conflict is escalating and it will be more difficult to manage.

If you’re trying to tell someone to stop talking after you’ve become annoyed, they may react to the emotions in your voice. That will cause them to continue talking and even become agitated.

If they’re repeating the same point, you could interject with:

“So what I think you’re saying is X.”

“So what I’m hearing is X.”

“So if I understand you clearly you would like me to X.”

As soon as they say yes, say goodbye and move away physically. Don’t give them a chance to start a new line of argument. Don’t allow them to add additional explanations to whatever they’re saying.

People Who Like to Hear Themselves Talk

Some people don’t have a point to make. They’re not interested in whether you understand what they’re saying. They simply like to hear the sound of their voice.

Once you’ve listened to them for long enough to ascertain that you’re dealing with this type of personality, take prompt action. In a polite but firm voice let them know that you need to focus on whatever it is that you were doing before they came along. [1]

For example, if you were reading on your tablet, you can go back to doing that. If you were working on your desktop computer, make every attempt to show that you’re diligently tackling some other task and can’t pay attention to them.

Complement your actions by saying:

“I can’t have this conversation right now. I’m trying to meet a deadline with these reports.”

“I’m trying to catch up on the news. These financial figures take all my focus and this conversation is a bit distracting.”

“Okay. I follow what you’re saying. I’m getting back to my work now.”

People Who Are Venting

Many people talk when they need to vent. For example, they may be experiencing stress at work. They might have a personal problem they can’t seem to fix and they may decide to talk about it. Unfortunately, they may do so at a point when you don’t have the energy to deal with additional stress.

You have to take care of yourself. If someone appears to need a listening ear and you can’t provide it at that time, you could direct them to someone who might be able to assist in that way.

For example, if someone keeps talking about a situation that would be best addressed by the human resource department at your company, you could direct them to an individual there. That would be more productive than just listening to them and nodding when you would prefer to be meeting your deadlines.

Similarly, if a parent has a problem with their child and you don’t feel able to offer any helpful advice, you may need to recommend them to a community worker in your area. If you’ve noticed that happening again and again with the same person, it’s really important to get qualified help for them. By directing them to a professional instead of having them talk with you, they’re more likely to get the support that they need.

You could halt this type of conversation and provide a more helpful alternative by saying:

“Have you made HR aware of this situation? They have handled cases like this before and they can help you. I think right now is the best time to go and talk to them.”

“You know, Tricia, from our department, is a trained mediator. She’s worked with a number of situations just like that. I think you should talk to her.”

“Brian, I’m not sure how I would deal with that. This sounds like a serious situation and I think you should talk to a community worker about it. I have the number for someone who helped a friend. Let me give it to you.”

Misinformed Individuals

Some people like to talk at length about their opinions when they haven’t taken the time to check the facts properly. These individuals will talk to you all day long without giving any type of consideration to what is a fact.

It would be a mistake to give any of your time to these people.

As soon as you realize that another person hasn’t accessed all the facts that are relevant to what they’re saying and it’s their modus operandi, you may want to consider exiting the conversation. That type of person isn’t going to develop critical-thinking skills overnight.

To make a clean exit and use your time more productively, consider saying:

“That’s not what I understand of it. However, you have the right to your own opinions. See you around.”

“I didn’t get that from the news report. Maybe you heard from a different source. Anyway, I need to go now.”

“Oh, that’s a different perspective. The details that I’ve heard wouldn’t have led me to that conclusion. Anyway, since we seem to disagree, let’s talk about something else.”

Even if you can’t physically move away from the person, the last statement should help you to end that conversation or at least shift to another topic. Always try to end the conversation as smoothly as possible by using concise sentences. Do not give unnecessary explanations, but also do not try to stall the person.

Rude and Disrespectful People

You may not voluntarily choose to enter a conversation with someone rude or disrespectful. The individual may be that way all the time. Sometimes you might meet people who work in a stressful environment and they feel irritated all the time. That starts to affect their ability to self-regulate.

For example, you may ask a store clerk for help with finding a product and their attitude may be substandard. Another person may be able to provide the information that you need, so consider asking:

“Is there anyone else who can assist me?”

“Is anyone from that department here?”

“Is there someone who has more experience with using this product?”

Any one of these questions should get them to stop talking and find someone who can be of more assistance.

Sometimes people who work in a position where they should be able to answer a question and can’t talk unnecessarily to cover a feeling of inadequacy. In that case, try to end the conversation quickly without causing embarrassment.

Telephone Conversations

When a person is speaking with you face-to-face, it’s easy to read signals via your posture, facial expression, and tone, that tell them when you’re tired of the conversation. [2] However, when you’re speaking with a person on the phone, they’re unable to see your face unless it’s a video call.

Most of the time with phone conversations, they have to rely on your tone of voice to tell them when you want to exit the conversation. You can make it easier on the other person by stating clearly that you have to move on to another activity.

You could say:

“Well, I’m going to have to wrap up this conversation now because I’m headed in to work.”

“I’ll have to stop talking to you now. I have to head on over to my meeting.”

“Well, I hope you have a productive day.”

If the other person still won’t stop talking, and you need to move on to another activity, you’ll need to remind them again that the conversation has to end. If it’s someone who you genuinely enjoy talking to but you just don’t have the time at that point, remind them that it’s just goodbye for now. Let them know that you enjoyed talking to them because you did.

You can get them to stop talking by reminding them that you enjoy having conversations with them but you need to go.

Simply say:

“I enjoyed talking with you, Kenneth. I have to run off to a meeting but we’ll talk again.”

“Thanks for the call, Jon. I appreciate you taking the time out to connect.”

“It was a pleasure talking to you Mandy. My lunch break is over now, so I have to go.”


Sources:

[1]: https://hbr.org/2019/12/10-quick-tips-for-avoiding-distractions-at-work

[2]: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships-communication/nonverbal-communication.htm

Sophie

Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.

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