For some, talking less may be the key to getting more out of life.
Illustration by Ben Wiseman for TIME
January 19, 2023 7:00 AM EST

Learning to keep your mouth shut can change your life. It can make you more likable, more creative, and more powerful. People who talk less are more likely to get promoted at work and more likely to prevail in negotiations. Speaking with intention—that is, not just blurting things out—improves our relationships, makes us better parents, and can boost our psychological and even physical well-being. A few years ago, researchers at the University of Arizona discovered that people who spend less time on small talk and devote more time to substantive conversations—the kind where one person doesn’t do all the blabbing—are happier than everyone else, so much so that having good conversations, they wrote, “might be a key ingredient to a satisfied life.”

When I first set out to fix my own problem with overtalking, I learned that communication researchers James McCroskey and Virginia P. Richmond created the term “talkaholism” to describe compulsive overtalking. In 1993, they created a questionnaire for people to determine if they are talkaholics. Answer the questions and then consult the instructions at the end to calculate your score. To double-check your results, ask someone who knows you to answer the same questions about you and calculate their score. Be warned: this might get awkward.

DIRECTIONS: This questionnaire includes 16 statements about talking behavior. Please indicate the degree to which you believe that each of these characteristics applies to you by marking on the line before each item whether you (5) strongly agree that it applies, (4) agree that it applies, (3) are undecided, (2) disagree that it applies, or (1) strongly disagree that it applies. There are no right or wrong answers. Work quickly; record your first impression.

On the cover: Talking Less Will Get You More

Illustration by Ben Wiseman for TIME

Excerpted from STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World by Dan Lyons. To be published by Henry Holt and Company on March 7, 2023. Copyright © 2023 by Daniel Lyons. All rights reserved. Talkaholic Scale reprinted with permission from Virginia P. Richmond.

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Write to Chris Wilson at chris.wilson@time.com.

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