Ask anyone to describe me, and one of the first words out of their mouth will be, “talkative”. I LOVE to talk, and I sometimes joke that I’d be quite happy to carry on a conversation with a rock, if it came down to it. But, I’ve learned, sometimes I just need to shut up.
To me, the most uncomfortable portion of a conversation is silence. So, naturally, I minimize the discomfort by talking through the silence. The problem is that many times, the other person needs a minute to collect their thoughts to answer my question or comment on the point I just made, so blabbering through actually makes everything take longer. For example, I’m more knowledgeable about how to make changes to the company website. I tend to give a full explanation or offer two different options for making a change. When my boss gives me the confusion/”I’m thinking” look, I assume it means that I need to further explain the options. In reality, it usually just means he’s thinking, and if I’d give him a second of silence, he could choose an option.I’m trying to learn to let people think, instead of assuming that I need to fill the silence with more explanations to “help” my counterpart.
Another problem is that I tend to assume everything requires a drawn-out explanation of my logic in reaching a conclusion. While I think it’s helpful to have an explanation of your methods handy, I do think that in business, it’s better to just state your point. Then, if your colleagues need more detail, they can ask for it. This is also true in personal relationships, and this point hit me in the face this morning. While getting ready for work, I decided to tell my still-asleep husband that I didn’t want him to wash the light-colored laundry, because I had some sweaters that needed special treatment, so I planned to wash that load when I returned home from class. He rolls over, and says, “Don’t do the laundry, got it.” Sigh! I should have just told him that and let him sleep! Personal partners and business partners may take what you say at face-value, so practice making your point compelling enough on the surface to render your long explanation unnecessary.
Last, we discussed “talking past the sale” during our recent training session, and I’ve found this to be a common problem for any type of business. If you’ve already sold your idea, product, or services, STOP. The customer already believes you, so don’t risk losing the sale by continuing to talk and giving them a reason to change their mind. For job seekers, this is particularly important, as we tend to think that giving a potential employer more information is better. I’ve talked several times about transparency and credibility, and I think that learning to stop talking once you’ve convinced them of your ability is a good skill to have. (Again, we’re not talking about lying or intentionally side-stepping the truth, but if they don’t ask you about something after you’ve proven you’re a great fit, don’t give them a reason to find something wrong with you!)
I write this post while pointing a finger directly at myself, as my love for talking sometimes gets the best of me 🙂 So, have you found it helpful to just shut up? Does anyone else have trouble shutting up?