I was recently at a social gathering speaking with a woman I had just met, named Robyn. At first, it sounded like Robyn was a very interesting person and a good storyteller, but after a few minutes I noticed that we were not speaking WITH each other - she was speaking AT me.
I also noticed that I was unable to connect with her, and I started to feel very bored. Being used to noticing and acknowledging my feelings, I thanked my inner child for the information she was giving me - my boredom - which was telling me that Robyn was likely addicted to story telling.
Robyn was using story telling as a form of control, to capture my attention and drain my energy. She was counting on the fact that she thought I would be too polite to walk away in the middle of her story.
I do try to be polite, but I really don't like the feeling inside of someone trying to control my time and attention with story telling, and using my energy to fill up his or her emptiness. As I tuned in to Robyn, I could feel that she was in a lot of pain from her own self-abandonment, and was using her incessant talking as a way of avoiding her pain. Her talking was an inner distraction and an addictive way of trying to create a connection with me, to make up for having no connection with herself.
I had a lot of compassion for Robyn, but I also had a lot of compassion for myself, and I no longer wanted to be at the other end of her neediness. So, very politely, I said, "Please excuse me," and I walked away. I know this surprised her, but I also knew that it would not take long for her to find someone else to capture with her talking and story telling.
When this happens with a client or at an Intensive, I don't walk away. Instead, I move into the intent to learn, saying to the person, "There must be a good reason you feel the need to story-tell right now. Would you please take a breath and tune in to what you might be avoiding feeling?" People who are very addicted to story telling sometimes feel hurt when I say this to them, but it generally doesn't take them long to see that they have been using this addiction for a long time and that it has been pushing people away from them.
I say to them, "I know that part of why you are story telling is that this is a way you have learned to try to connect, but I don't feel connected with you when you are talking at me. Since you are in your head, avoiding your feelings with story telling, I can't feel you right now. If I can't feel you, I can't connect with you. I'd love to connect with you. Would you be willing to move out of your head and into your heart? Just breathe into your heart and notice what you are feeling right now."
Invariably, tears come up - the tears of inner abandonment, of inner disconnection. Now, because they are connecting with the feelings that their talking was covering over, I can connect with them. From this place of connection, we can do the work that they need to do.