Open communication is important. Too much communication, however, can make people feel uncomfortable. In the instances where I find myself talking more and listening less, I’ve noticed that people tend to squirm as I’m talking. They start looking at their watches. The point is clear: it’s time for me to shut my mouth.
It can be hard to tell if you’re talking too much. If you pay attention to the other people in the conversation, there are some hints that can let you know that your words aren’t being heard any more.
#1. The other person has stopped responding to you.
People talk more in non-verbal communication than they do in real words. Someone might be saying “Yeah” or “Great point” when you come to a conclusion, but that doesn’t mean they are listening. If their arms are crossed defensively, they’re looking away from you, or their facial expression is blank, then they’ve stopped listening. That means you’re talking too much.
#2. Fiddling with objects is actually a sign of listening.
When adults fiddle with objects, they’re actually trying to stay actively involved in a conversation. You might still be talking too much if someone picks up a toy to mess with while you’re speaking, but at least you know that they’re still engaged with what you’re saying at the moment.
#3. You’ve lost track of the conversation.
I hate this when it happens. You’re in the middle of a key point and then BOOM you forget what you were going to say. At this point, there’s a good chance that you’ve already been talking too long. This is the time when you’ll need to bring the other people back into the conversation so you can get back on topic. Let’s face it – if your mind stopped listening to you, then there’s a good chance other people have as well.
#4. You feel awesome because you’re talking.
Did you know that when you talk about yourself, the brain releases dopamine? That’s why you feel awesome when you’re discussing you. This is why people who talk a lot will talk even more. It’s like verbal meth. You’ve got to make a conscious decision to stop talking and begin listening if you hit this “talker’s high” because otherwise you’re going to end up annoying people.
#5. Consider timing yourself if you’re not sure about how much you talk.
Remember playing “Red Light, Green Light” as a child? I like to use a similar system to judge how long I’ve been talking. In a real conversation, most people can handle 15-20 seconds of a monologue. This is called the “green light.” At 20 seconds, your light turns yellow. At 40 seconds, your light turns red and you need to stop.
So how do you bring people into a conversation if 20 seconds is all that you’ve got? I’ve found that having questions prepared for that topic of conversation can really help. Ask someone their opinion about the matter. Give them the chance to talk for awhile. Then you can come back for another 20 seconds. Then repeat.
It’s not always easy to listen more and talk less. When you can do it, then you’ll find much more engagement with the conversations of which you’re a part. And sure – sometimes you might run a red light. It happens. When it does, re-engage people by asking more questions and choose to actively listen instead.
I’ve found this to be an effective way to identify when I’m talking too much and how to fix the issue. What are some of your ideas? I’d love to get some of your input on this subject matter.