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Monday, June 25, 2012

Three Ways to Stop the Endless Talker

    In my last post, I spoke to those who are endless talkers.  They know who they are.  They know this because somewhere along the way in their lives someone told them.  It may have been said nicely, almost jokingly, by a sensitive friend or delivered directly without any filters as only a family member can.  But the point was made.  And no doubt that point was made enough times that a talker will confess in some of their conversations, "I know I talk a lot..."  So they get it.  However, knowing and doing are two separate actions, and knowing they talk a lot doesn't mean they will automatically stop.  In fact, once they get rolling it seems they can hardly reign themselves in.  Their brains are churning thoughts that come rushing out like water from a hydrant, and they can't seem to turn them off.  Then there are those whose hydrant is more like a garden hose that's been left on.  They take their time and let their words just flow and flow and flow; leading you the long way to get to their point--which by the time they reach it is pointless.  Regardless, they have to tell the story start to finish, and they will not reach the conclusion until they've covered every detail.
     So imagine you're talking to Tammy Talks-a-lot, and she has just answered your burning question of the day:  "How are you?"  She is midway between the account of her gall bladder surgery in 2002 and the reflux and heartburn she's struggling with today, when you feel like clapping your hands on both sides of your face and running away in agony.  Instead, you frantically search your mind for excuses to get away.  Here are at least three ways you can rescue yourself from her verbal torture:
  1. If she stops to take a breath (because sometimes talkers don't), then interject.  Always interject.  Take back control of the conversation.  Jump in and summarize the conversation for the speaker.  Then move it in the direction you want it to go--to a conclusion.  In this case, I would say:  "Tammy I'm sorry to hear you don't feel 100%, but I'm sure you'll be better soon.  Meanwhile, I have to get going because I have a full plate today.  Feel better."  And I'd walk briskly away before she could get another word out or attempt to walk with me so she can finish her story.
  2. Never let a talker invade your space (i.e. your office at work, your kitchen at home, your personal phone).  When you control the environment, you control the conversation.  You can always make an excuse and walk away if you're in their office or a hallway.  However, when they have moved into your space, you are put in the awkward position of having to ask them to leave. 
  3. For the people who repeat themselves in three different ways, interject and summarize what they said.  If Tammy rambles a sentence that is 50 words long and states the same complaint at least three times in that meandering explanation, summarize by saying:  "So you're feeling crummy today is what you're saying.  Sorry to hear that, but you'll be okay--hopefully sooner than later.  I have a jam-packed day today so I have to scurry.  Feel better."  Pat her on the shoulder.  Walk away and don't look back.
     The point is this:  always take back control of the conversation.  If you're talking, then you can guide it, shorten it, and end it.  Try these and let me know how they work for you.  And if you have any special techniques you use, share them below.  Next week, I'll look at profanity in conversation, and if it has any relevance in daily conversation.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Endless Talker

    People who talk too much.  We all know them.  They go on and on until they finally reach their point (if there is one) buried somewhere at the end of their speech beneath a bunch of other stuff we don't care about.  Others interrupt us multiple times as if we're not even speaking to make their points.  Then there are those who are just plain wasteful with words.  They take 50 to say what could be said in ten.  Yakkety, yak, yak.  Blah, blah, blah.  I don't know about you, but I eventually stop listening.  My thoughts immediately go to:  "How in the world can I get away from this windbag?"  They don't seem to notice that my eyes have glazed over or I'm nodding like crazy to get them to hurry up.  My point?  It's about economy of words.  Unless we're chilling on the front porch enjoying the breeze with no particular plans, then I'm too busy to get stalled by somebody's chatter.
    If you're the culprit, take this advice because most people may find it too awkward to let you know:  Get to the point in the quickest way possible.  The longer you're yammering, the more time you're wasting.  Not just your time but the time of others who have to endure your painful monologue.  This is especially expensive on the job when you're standing around chatting, and there is work to be done.  I call this the "drip zone".  This is where companies aren't aware of how much they're losing in productivity because some seemingly harmless act is being perpetuated throughout their organization every day, but it's costing them.  It might not be loss that comes gushing through like water from a hose.  But it's the constant drip, drip, drip that adds up at the end of the day to huge deficits.  For example, wasting time in unproductive meetings that run too long, hallway conversations that happen too frequently, and too many phone interruptions that are unimportant are all most often conducted by the endless talker.
    A monologue is usually what they become.  Even if the information is important, when its delivery is monopolized, then there is no dialog.  If one person is doing all the talking, that hardly constitutes a conversation.  A dialogue is a discussion between TWO people.  What inadvertently happens is that talkers make themselves the center of the conversation.  Their opinions, thoughts, ideas, and interests are all that matter.  They have essentially locked out the other person and taken a very self-centered approach to communicating.  The difficult part in all of this is that talkers are usually nice people.  They're fun to be around.  They likely have a warm spirit and a great sense of humor, and this makes it hard for us to be critical with them when we have to be.  So we simply endure--much to our frustration.  We dread seeing them come, but we don't know how to get out of the way.  We groan inwardly and search frantically in our minds for ways to end the conversation before it starts.  Enough already!  If you're guilty of endless talking, listen up!
  1. Be considerate of other people in your discussions.  Give them a chance to speak without interruption, and try to listen without formulating what you're going to say when it's your turn to speak.  
  2. Be aware that you're long-winded, and that it's annoying to others.  Try to refrain from speaking for too long.  Monitor yourself.
  3. If you're mostly talking, then you're NOT mostly listening.
  4. Get to the point!  If there isn't one, then it's better to remain quiet.
    If this all sounds too harsh and judgmental, sorry.  But trust me, someone has tried to let the talker know, and the subtle approach has not worked.  If someone has directed you to this blog or printed it out and mysteriously left it on your desk, take the hint.  I know what I'm talking about.  Shoot, look at how long this entry is.  I could've said this in fewer words, but I'm a talker.  What can I say?  The answer:  a lot less.  So I will.  In fact, in the next post, I'll provide tips on what to do when you've been cornered by a talker, and how to break away.  And I'll try hard to be brief.  Check back with me next Monday morning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I once heard billionaire Warren Buffett say to a group of MBA students at Columbia University that if they learned to communicate well, they could add about a half million dollars to their personal worth.  The fact is, as much as we all speak, we do a poor job of communicating most of the time.  There's not often clarity in what we're trying to say or write, we talk too much, we don't talk enough, we say the wrong things, we are not sensitive to the people we're talking to or about, we misspell words and don't go back and proofread our work, we don't listen enough, we cut people off when they are trying to speak, we talk too loud or too soft, we're too curt in our responses, we don't get to the point, we're just plain bad at communicating.  This blog will serve to help anyone out there who makes these mistakes and more.  Check it out weekly.