Talking Too Much

Do you know someone who talks too much?

At work, maybe it’s the person who dominates a meeting, crowding out new possibilities that might emanate from others.  At a gathering, maybe it’s that person who continually brings topics back to herself.  “Sorry about your back.  I had a back problem once…”

You may not be this person; but you are likely well aware of the logjam that over-talkers create.   They may be an employee, a peer, a good friend, or, unfortunately, your boss.

Sergey is a boss – a highly intelligent scientist and lab director who talked a lot.  Brilliant, and a real Renaissance man, it was a shame that his over-talking was costing him.  Several of the researchers he directed didn’t initiate and complete things in the way he wanted.  One or another would add that he was intrusive and at times defensive with his talking.  Complaints came in and his boss needed to get involved.  His tenure – and potentially his work status in the US – were threatened.

Talking about the talking was, as you can imagine, a little difficult, but he and I used a simple Shift Continuum to inspire a shift.  With “Talk” on one end and “Listen” on the other, our discussions landed on a method he felt comfortable to use with his graduate students.  He would shift to using questions rather than telling his students what to do.  He likened it to a Socratic method of eliciting their ideas and creativity.

My status as his coach did give me a position from which to approach him that you may not have with your over-talking colleague or friend.  But if you can see clear costs of that verbosity to him/her, or to a shared project, you could certainly approach the topic as their manager, or even as a peer or friend, by using a two-step method that is central to the cases of leaders in my new book, The Shift Effect:  Raise awareness, and make a simple shift.

For the awareness raising, use a simple feedback method of When This Happens – I feel – Request.  For our talking example, it might go something like, “Yolanda, when we have our team meeting, I feel that you regularly express yourself. Sometimes that can crowd out people from giving their ideas as well.  Would you be willing to give some of the others time to express their ideas?”

If Yolanda bristles, or is taken aback, be ready to have an exchange where you stay connected to her.  Two “back-pocket” ideas might help.  First, say that this is your perception.  Ask her how she sees it.  If she denies your perception, suggest that she ask the other team members how they see it.

Secondly, if she accepts the feedback to any extent, you might suggest brevity. Or inviting others to join in.  For example, you might say to Yolanda, “I typically like your ideas.  But I sometimes lose the thread when you add on details.  What if you said something like, ‘Here’s how I think we should proceed.  What do you all think?’  And leave it at that.  That way you express yourself and involve others.”

See more on “The Overtalker” and other common workplace fatal flaws in The Shift Effect, now available on Amazon.

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