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How to Stop Time-Suckers

WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Marion Winik
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They talk your ear off, oblivious to your busy schedule. You'd do anything to shut them up, but how? These three easy steps will help you handle any motormouth so that you can get on with your day.

Time is precious, as they say — which is why it's so incredibly frustrating when someone comes along and nonchalantly siphons it out of your day. We're talking about the way-too-chatty friend, relative, coworker, or acquaintance who latches on to you when you bump into her at the supermarket, holds you hostage on the phone (even when you've got a deadline at work), or unexpectedly drops by for a visit. The more she blathers on, the greater your desperation grows. Is there a way to stop her without being rude? Is it possible to prevent this from happening in the future and preserve your relationship with her? Yes, yes, and yes. Here's how.

STEP 1: Put her on pause.

Stopping this person's monologue is your first order of business. To handle that sensitive task diplomatically:

  • Gently but firmly interrupt her. When you're face-to-face, you can force a pause by holding up a finger or simply opening your mouth to give the signal that you're going to break in. On the phone, you may have to raise your voice slightly to get the conversational upper hand. Start with "Excuse me..." or "Okay..." or "You know...."
  • Immediately follow with something positive. That unexpected interruption may throw her a bit, so be sure to soothe her with a few kind words: "It's great to hear from you..." or "I'm so glad that you stopped by..."
  • Then deliver the excuse. "But I only have about five minutes." "I'm expecting a call that I really have to take." "I was just putting Caitlyn to bed." "I've got something burning on the stove." "I'm heading out for an appointment." Your excuse should have some basis in fact, if possible, since truth rolls off the tongue more easily. And remember that "I've got a busy day/evening" is hardly ever an outright lie.

You've Got Mail. Sigh.

When you're going back and forth, messaging or e-mailing with someone who doesn't seem to want to end the exchange, close things down by sending an unmistakably final salutation, suggests Maria Bailey of, a site devoted to time-management strategies for working mothers. Try one of these:

  • Have a good day.
  • I'll get back to you soon.
  • Okay, that covers it. I'm signing off now.
  • Sounds great. No need to reply.

When people forward you jokes, videos, and chain letters, you can always delete them, of course. If you don't want to receive virtual inbox cloggers at all, however, reply with something like, "Hey, I want to be excited when I see your name — but when you send me forwards like these, I just delete them, so I'll never know if you're sending a personal message." That should stop even the most avid chain e-mailer.

Could you use some help with a tough conversation? Tell us about it. Send an e-mail to


Originally published on: April 22, 2008


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