Cracking the Chatter Code: Decoding Your Talkative Colleague's Behaviour

We've probably all encountered that one chatty colleague who seems to have an endless stream of small talk and random questions. While it can be tempting to dismiss their behaviour as trivial or annoying, there may be underlying reasons for their chattiness. In this article, we will explore how you can use the Functional Fluency model to understand what is really going on with your talkative colleague and establish a more meaningful connection.

Let’s explore the following real-life example together:
In our Functional Fluency trainings, we ask participants to explore situations in which they tend to use ineffective behaviours. Recently, one of the participants, let’s call her Jane, immediately shared a recurring situation involving a very chatty colleague. The moment she saw this particular colleague coming near her, she suppressed rolling her eyes up, thought to herself “here we go again” and basically put up with the things her colleague was chatting about, whilst internally thinking how superficial her colleague is:
The conversation went like this …
Colleague: “Is it Wednesday today?”
Jane: “Yes it’s Wednesday today.”
Colleague: “Do they only serve chicken at KFC?”
Jane: “Yes, they only serve chicken at KFC.”
Colleague: “The weather is horrible, isn’t it?”
Jane: “Yes, the weather is horrible.”
Colleague: “Did I already ask if it is Wednesday?”
Jane: “Yes you did, and yes, it is Wednesday?”
And so on . . .
What springs to your mind as you read this?
You're invited to take a look at the nine behavioural modes of Functional Fluency (view image on this page or scroll down and download the file ), and see if you can identify the behaviours that Jane is using;

What did you discover? 

Were you able to identify the behaviours that Jane was demonstrating?
Do you think it was effective?
If not, why not?
Looking at the situation described by Jane, it is evident that she is using a combination of ineffective modes of behaviour.
Dominating: Jane's internal dialogue reveals a sense of superiority and judgment towards her colleague's conversations, indicating a dominating mode.
Immature: The eye-rolling and dismissive attitude reflect an immature mode, where Jane's response lacks maturity and empathy.
Can you spot any more?!
Understanding Your Chatty Colleague:
Now that we have identified the ineffective modes at play, let's delve into how you can get to the bottom of what is really going on with your chatty colleague:
Be Observant
Pay attention to your colleague's behaviour and non-verbal cues. Notice any patterns, changes in demeanour, or signs of stress. This observation will provide insights into their state of mind.
Establish Rapport
Build a positive and trusting relationship with your colleague. Engage in friendly conversations and show genuine interest in their life and work. Creating a comfortable environment will encourage them to open up.
Listen Actively
When your colleague talks, give them your full attention. Show that you are actively listening through eye contact, nodding, and verbal cues. This will create a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings.
Ask Open-Ended Questions
Encourage deeper conversations by asking open-ended questions that require more detailed responses. This allows your colleague to express themselves more fully, fostering a better understanding of their perspectives and concerns.
Express Concern
If you notice any signs of distress or a change in behaviour, express your concern in a caring and non-judgmental manner. Let them know that you've noticed the change and that you're available to listen and offer support if needed.
Choose an Appropriate Setting
Find a private and comfortable space where you can have a conversation without interruptions. This will help your colleague feel at ease and more willing to open up about what may be going on beneath the surface.
Be Patient and Empathetic
Recognize that your colleague may have personal issues or work-related stressors affecting their chattiness. Approach the situation with patience and empathy, avoiding assumptions or jumping to conclusions.
Offer Assistance
If your colleague opens up about a specific issue or problem, offer your support and assistance if appropriate. Sometimes, a simple offer of help can go a long way in alleviating their concerns.
Now, can you figure out which of the ‘golden’ effective modes of behaviour these actions would relate to?

In fact, these actions represent use of all of the five golden modes of effective behaviour of Functional Fluency and demonstrate a holistic approach to personal and professional growth and the ability to foster relationships through:

  • being present, making sense of what is going on, tuning into and noticing what is around us and what is happening within us, considering consequences and assessing and realising the significance of our thoughts and actions (Accounting).
  • providing support and inspiration, setting high expectations and firm boundaries, within which people feel secure enough to grow and learn, with a focus on the positive, because this ensures others to develop skills, competence and self-confidence (Structuring).
  • offering warmth and appreciation, accepting people, giving them time and attention, empathise, listen to and try to understand (Nurturing).
  • considering other points of view, giving and taking, sharing, standing up for ourselves, listening with respect and doing so in a friendly way (Cooperative).
  • being open about how we feel, using our imagination, expressing our ideas freely and being willing to let go (Spontaneous).

Next time, instead of dismissing your chatty colleague, take the opportunity to understand what is really going on beneath their talkative surface. By applying the principles of the Functional Fluency model, you can establish a more meaningful connection, foster empathy, and create a supportive environment.

Remember, it's important to approach the situation with genuine curiosity, active listening, and a willingness to offer assistance when needed, but it is also important to respect your colleague's privacy and boundaries. If they don't feel comfortable sharing, don't push them. It's crucial to maintain a balance between being supportive and intrusive.

Through understanding and empathy, you can transform your relationship with your chatty colleague and create a more harmonious and productive work environment.

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