“I ramble when I talk to other people. It’s like once I open my mouth, I can’t stop talking. I usually end up regretting a lot of what I said. How can I stop saying things without thinking?”
Many people find that they ramble or talk too quickly or too much when they are nervous or excited. Others simply don’t know how to communicate effectively, so their stories are too long with unnecessary details.
Rambling often creates a negative cycle: you start talking and get overly excited and speak too quickly. As you realize people around you have lost focus, you get even more nervous, and so you speak even faster.
Don’t worry: you can learn how to get to the point when speaking and feel more confident in social situations. Understanding why rambling happens and tools to communicate more effectively can help you become a confident communicator.
Sometimes people ramble because they don’t get many opportunities to express themselves.
You may try to suppress emotions, but they want to be expressed. And they can come out at the most inappropriate times. And so a simple question like “how are you?” can unleash a stream of words that you may feel powerless to stop.
Expressing yourself regularly through journaling, support groups, internet chats, and therapy can reduce your need to ramble when someone asks you a question. Your body will instinctively know that this won’t be the only opportunity for you to share your thoughts.
After conversations, take some time to think about what you said and write down ways you could have expressed yourself more concisely. Take some time when you’re alone in your room to experiment with different ways of saying the same thing out loud. See how using a different intonation or speed can change how something comes out.
Using the right tone and body language, emphasizing the correct parts of the sentence, and selecting the more precise words to use can help you get your point across quickly without using too many words.
Deep breathing can help calm down your nervous energy and slow you down. The calmer and more grounded you feel during conversations, the less likely you are to ramble.
Practicing deep breathing exercises at home can help you remember to do so during conversations when you feel more nervous or anxious.
Thinking about what you want to say before you say it can help you be concise. Planning out the important points of what you want to say is essential in interviews or if you’re giving a presentation.
For example, if you’re job-hunting, look up common questions asked in interviews (you can even Google interview questions by sector). Ask yourself what the most important points to address in your answer are. Practice at home or with a friend. Go over what you want to say mentally before you enter your interview.
Using a structured framework can also help you plan what to say. Try the PRES method: Point, Reason, Example, Summary.
- Most of us eat far too much sugar. [Point]
- This is partly because it’s in so many processed foods and snacks. [Reason]
- For instance, even some savory foods like bread and potato chips might contain sugar. [Example]
- Basically, sugar is a big part of our diets. It’s everywhere! [Summary]
One common reason people ramble is that one story reminds them of another. So they start sharing more background details, which reminds them of another example, so they use the other example before returning to the original example, but that makes them remember something else, and so on.
Learn how to stop going off on tangents. If you’re speaking and remember another relevant example, tell yourself you can share it another time if it is appropriate. Finish your current anecdote and see if someone has something to say about it before offering up another example or story.
Rambling often happens when we speak so quickly we forget to take a breath.
Learn how to organize thoughts before speaking. Practice speaking slowly and taking a short breath or break between sentences or a group of a few sentences.
During these pauses, ask yourself, “What am I trying to say?” As you get used to taking these mini-breaks, you’ll become better at organizing your thoughts mid-conversation.
Let’s say someone asks you how you chose your puppy.
A rambling answer may look something like this:
“Well, it’s the strangest thing. I was just wondering if I should get a puppy. I wanted to go to the shelter, but they were closed that day. And then I put it off for the next few weeks and started wondering if I was really ready for the responsibility. Maybe I should get an older dog.
And then my friend Amy, who I met in college, but we weren’t friends back then, we only reconnected two years after college, told me that her dog just had puppies! So I thought that was amazing, except she already promised the puppies to other people. So I was disappointed. But at the last moment, one of them changed their mind! So I got that puppy, and we hit it off really well, but…”
Most of those details aren’t necessary to the story. A concise answer without unnecessary details may look like:
“Well, I was just wondering if I wanted to adopt a dog, and then my friend mentioned her dog had puppies. The person who was meant to adopt this puppy changed their mind at the last minute, so she asked me. It felt like the right time, so I agreed, and we’re doing great so far!”
Sometimes when we speak, we can get caught up in what we’re saying and almost stop noticing what is happening around us. In such cases, we may not even see when people seem to be bored or stop listening. In other cases, we notice but feel unable to stop talking.
Make it a habit to bring your attention to the people you’re talking to as you speak. Make eye contact and notice their expressions. Are they smiling? Does it seem like something is bothering them? Noticing little details can help you engage more effectively with people.
Part of focusing on other people is being interested in them and asking questions.
Conversations should be a give-and-take. If you ramble a lot, the people you’re talking to may not have a chance to speak and express yourself.
Practice asking questions and listen deeply to the answers. The more listening you’ll do, the less time you will have to ramble.
You may find our guide on how to be interested in others if you’re not naturally curious helpful.
Another common reason people ramble is to fill up awkward gaps in conversations to try and keep others amused with stories.
Do you feel like you have to keep people entertained in conversations? Remember that you’re not a comedian or interviewer. You don’t have to tell lots of interesting stories so that people will want you around. Gaps in conversation are natural, and it’s not your responsibility to fill them.
Read more on how to get comfortable with silence.
Some people with ADHD or anxiety tend to ramble. Treating the underlying issues can improve your symptoms even without working on them directly.
Let’s say you ramble because you’re anxious and speaking rapidly keeps you distracted from your inner experience, even if you’re not aware that this is the reason you’re doing so. Treating your anxiety will make your inner experience more pleasant, which will reduce your need for this coping strategy.
Or maybe you ramble because you have ADHD and are afraid you’ll forget things if you don’t say them right away. Being consistent with tools like keeping lists or using phone reminders can reduce this fear.
Speak to a doctor about getting screened for ADHD or anxiety. Regular exercise can help with both anxiety and ADHD. In both cases, you may decide to use medication as you learn new coping skills. Therapy, mindfulness, and working with an ADHD coach can all be valuable solutions.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and is much cheaper than going to an actual therapist's office. They are also cheaper than Talkspace for what you get. You can learn more about BetterHelp here.
There are affordable and even free online courses that can help you tackle any issue you’re dealing with. A course that will help you improve your communication skills can give you the perfect opportunity to practice speaking without rambling. Improving your confidence can also help you feel more comfortable in conversations and reduce your need to ramble.
You may be rambling because you’re simply excited about the topic. If you find yourself rambling often, it may be because you feel anxious, nervous, or insecure. Rambling is also a common symptom of ADHD.
You can reduce your rambling by becoming more comfortable in conversations, improving your communication skills, and treating underlying issues such as anxiety and ADHD.