HBR: How to Know If You Talk Too Much


I love this article. I could name it after some people I know. You see, I hate rules. That's why I love the office here, no rules. I was a big believer of the Dali Lama saying, "learn the rules so you can break them perfectly". 

During my Air Force career, I was assigned the command of three different organizations. Each time, upon arrival, I would seek out the 'rule book' and throw it away. I would then announce that if we had to create a rule, I would formally name it after the dumb s.o.b. who caused it. 

I could name this article after so many people who can not believe their stream of wisdom ever has to stop. In fact, when I mentioned this article to Sue a few minutes ago, we both instantly named the same person, but there are more, trust me. The '40 second rule' is kind of cool. Here's another hint. In IBM marketing training they said, "you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that ratio"………Mike 

How to Know If You Talk Too Much
HBR: by Mark Goulston, June 03, 2015

You may have heard the saying, “When you’re in love, smoke gets in your eyes.” Well when you’re talking, smoke gets in your eyes and ears. Once you’re on a roll, it’s very easy to not notice that you’ve worn out your welcome. You may not even realize that the other person is politely trying to get a word in, or subtly signaling that they need to be elsewhere (possibly, anywhere else if you have been really boring).

There are three stages of speaking to other people. In the first stage, you’re on task, relevant and concise. But then you unconsciously discover that the more you talk, the more you feel relief. Ahh, so wonderful and tension-relieving for you… but not so much fun for the receiver. This is the second stage – when it feels so good to talk, you don’t even notice the other person is not listening.

The third stage occurs after you have lost track of what you were saying and begin to realize you might need to reel the other person back in. If during the third stage of this monologue poorly disguised as a conversation you unconsciously sense that the other person is getting a bit fidgety, guess what happens then?

Unfortunately, rather than finding a way to reengage your innocent victim through having them talk and then listening to them, instead the usual impulse is to talk even more in an effort to regain their interest.

Why does this happen? First, the very simple reason that all human beings have a hunger to be listened to. But second, because the process of talking about ourselves releases dopamine, the pleasure hormone. One of the reasons gabby people keep gabbing is because they become addicted to that pleasure.

Not long after my book, Just Listen, came out, I too succumbed to ignoring signs that I had started to annoy my friend and fellow coach, Marty Nemko, host of a radio show about work on KALW, NPR’s San Francisco affiliate. He and I have been coaching each other for some time. He hit a nerve when he told me, “Mark, for an expert on listening, you need to talk less and listen more.” Read More