When you’ve got the floor in a meeting, do you notice people looking at the clock or their phones?
When you’re chatting over the water cooler, do you find yourself chiming in before your colleagues finish their sentences?
Do you typically go off on tangents when you tell a story?
Do people nod blankly and say “uh huh” a lot when you’re speaking?
Do you notice that people at work prefer to communicate with you via email?
You may be an overtalker.
Most people who talk too much don’t realize they do it, says Annie Stevens, managing partner for ClearRock, a leadership development and executive coaching firm. No matter whether it’s fueled by insecurity or overconfidence, however, this quality can be deadly to one’s career—especially these days.
How Talking Too Much Can Hurt You
With 67% of people working “a great deal more” than they did five years ago, according to a survey by staffing firm Manpower, workers literally have less patience for distractions. “No one has time to sit down for an hour to get an answer to a question,” says Stevens. Your peers and supervisors may start avoiding you if you are sucking up a lot of their time.
Additionally, if you can’t get to the point in a meeting, your boss may wonder about your ability to communicate with higher ups or clients. Prattling on in an interview could obscure the points that you’re trying to make, and hamper your chances at getting the job.
Women seem to pay a bigger price for being loquacious. A Yale University study found that high-level women who talk more at work are perceived as less competent than men. According to lead researcher Victoria Brescoll, people tend to want to reward males who are garrulous by either by hiring them or giving them more responsibility, while females who talk a lot are seen as domineering and presumptuous.
For any worker, though, the ability to share information clearly and succinctly is an asset, says Stevens. In a world where big ideas can be conveyed in under 140 characters, there’s less tolerance for a verbal opus.
Stevens’s motto: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.”
Keep from Being Seen as a Blabbermouth
Become self aware. Watch for those red flags mentioned above. The surest sign of them that you’re talking too much is that you talk over someone who is speaking. “It can be a fatal error if it happens during a job interview, a career killer if done often with your boss, and will alienate co-workers if you’re repeatedly interrupting and hijacking the conversation,” said Stevens.
Strive to pay attention—at least for a few days—to other people’s reactions when you’re talking. Do your colleagues, for example, join in the digression when you veer off topic? You’re probably in the clear.
Pay attention to body language, too. You are likely losing your listener if he or she glances at a clock or a computer, stops making eye contact or is no longer taking notes. “Wrap up as soon as you can,” says Stevens.
Have a script. There are times when you do need to talk about yourself. Develop and memorize a 90-second verbal response so you are prepared with a summary when interviewers or networking contacts say, “Tell me about yourself.”
Similarly, if you’re giving a speech or presentation, outline a few key points before the meeting and stick to them. Watch for those cues noted above as signs you should get back on track.
Details are important in storytelling, but make sure you’re pared down to the essentials. “The annoying companion of over-talking is over-telling, as in disclosing too many, too personal, irrelevant and or inappropriate details,” says Stevens.
Practice active listening. Don’t just be lying in conversational wait for your turn to talk. Pay close attention to what is being discussed and ask relevant follow up questions.
Showing your listening skills can be just as important as showing how much you can talk, says Stevens. “If the person you are speaking with believes that you’re interested in what they’re saying, he or she will think positively about you.”
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