I talk a lot in my job, which is good, because I enjoy talking. My challenge is to stop talking when that would serve the situation. There are two very specific aspects of the conversational back and forth that I work on and fail at every day. These, I suspect, will be life long goals –
- Ask one question at a time
- Stop adding detail and context when I have already conveyed my point
I have the good fortune of experiencing lots of different conversational styles. Two that are quite common are – those who talk super fast, and those who appear to have such extraordinary lung capacity that they can go on for paragraphs without taking a breath. Fortunately, I tell people who hire me to be their coach that it will be my job to interrupt them. My clients get pretty used to it quite quickly and are actually a little relieved when I jump in. I find that these two styles are often connected to some sort of insecurity about their ability to express themselves adequately in just a few words. They think you won’t get what they are trying to say without adding every.single.detail. Or they are uncomfortable with silence in a discussion and thus feel moved to fill in that space.
Have you ever watched a video of yourself talking? What did you notice? When I was involved in my coaching training, I had to record several of my calls and have my mentor coach listen to them with me. Oh was that painful! Beyond the typical not liking the sound of my own voice, that exercise revealed several things to me. In addition to points 1 and 2 at the top of this post, I sure do say “Ummm…” a lot and on occasion, don’t give the person I am speaking with time to respond before I jump in with some other question or pearl of wisdom.
We all have blindspots about how we show up and are experienced by others. Since we use conversation as our primary way of engaging with our fellow humans, there is probably value in paying a little more attention to it. People assess us in part by the way we do the dance of conversation. If you are curious about what you might not be aware of in yourself, ask a few folks you trust to tell you what they see or feel when they are talking to you. See if you notice any patterns. The beautiful thing about this and just about any other behavior is that if it’s not working for you, you can change it!