Why being a ‘chatterbox’ isn’t the bad thing it’s often made out to be

According to a new study, people often believe that speaking less in a conversation makes them seem more likeable – but the opposite is true.

If you’re someone who enjoys talking a lot, you’ve probably been told off for being a ‘chatterbox’ at one point or another. 

We’ve all heard the saying “silence is golden” – in a world that often feels dominated by loud voices, being able to listen and observe is often held up as the ultimate skill.

But according to new research, being a chatterbox could also offer some surprising benefits. The paper, published in the Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, found that speaking more than your partner in a conversation makes you seem more likeable, despite the common belief that the opposite is true.  

To come to this conclusion, the researchers from Harvard University and the University Of Virginia conducted three studies with a group of undergraduate students. The first two measured the existence of the so-called ‘reticence bias’ – aka, the idea that speaking less in a conversation makes you more likeable.

While the parameters of both of these studies varied, the results were clear: the students believed that speaking less would make them more likeable.  

However, when the researchers moved the group onto the third study, they found that the opposite was true. 

The researchers found that those who spoke more during conversation were perceived to be more likeable.

After the researchers put the undergraduates into pairs, they were asked to have a seven-minute conversation in which they took turns answering a series of four prompts. A computer program told each party how long to speak – randomly assigning each participant a percentage of the conversation.

At the end of the conversations, the participants were then asked to report how likeable they found their partner. And despite the common belief that listening is more important than talking when it comes to likeability, those who were assigned a bigger chunk of the conversation tended to receive a higher rating from their partner.  

While listening is obviously a valuable relationship skill, it’s clear that being chatty isn’t the ‘bad’ thing it’s often made out to be. 

There’s a difference between talking at someone and making enthusiastic contributions to a friendly chat – and as long as you’re giving the other person space to speak and guide the conversation, there’s nothing wrong with talking more.

So, the next time you think about holding back during a chat, remember that being talkative isn’t a character flaw – it could actually be the secret to making new friends.  

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