Two Ears, One Mouth – Ten Tips for the Talkative

Do you talk a lot? Life of the party?
Even in business meetings? Are you a passionate speaker? Often speaking
loudest, longest, first and last? Always have something to say? Perhaps
you are often the smartest person in the room, the authority figure, or
just the funniest?

Certainly there are a lot of advantages to being outgoing; generally
well liked and able to bring a group together.  However, without
tempering, outgoing speakers use can become overwhelming. When that
happens it may become difficult to elicit feedback or information,
provide a learning opportunity, or build rapport.

At some point you may realize that while many people respond well to
your open style, there are occasions when you need a more thoughtful
approach. 

It is easy to be perceived as a light-weight if you are always
joking. If you speak so quickly or voluminously no one else gets a
chance, your listeners eventually won’t even try to bring things up –
they are just too overwhelmed by the pace and volume of words you are
putting out. And if your humor becomes too sarcastic or pointed, people
may hold back concerned about becoming a target. 

Self-Check

1.  Are you repeating yourself? If one time is good, five times three different ways is better?

2.  Are you on track for this conversation or are you bringing up topics outside the scope?

3.  Are you making assumptions about what others are thinking? You just “know?”

4.  Do you care what others think? Do you genuinely see value in their opinions or recommendations?

5.  Do you have to be the center of attention or are you more interested in good dialogue?

6.  Is your humor crossing from gentle poking at yourself to sarcasm? If someone speaks up, do they become the target of humor?

7.  Do you actually listen or are you busy crafting a response when
someone else is speaking? If you lose track during a conversation this
is a problem.

8.  Do you maintain perspective? What is the worst thing that will
happen if you don’t get a chance to give your full opinion? Lose money,
face, or maybe lunch? Will the world actually end?

The following tips are not intended to change what works for you but
rather give you a little something extra for those times when you need
to be particularly mindful about the outcome of a given discussion.

1.  Try not to speak for more than two minutes at time without a
pause. Time two minutes – it really is quite a while when having a
conversation. Speaking more than two minutes turns a conversation into a
lecture. The purpose of the pause is to allow others to speak up. It
does no good to get to the end of an elaborate explanation only to
discover you lost your listener at the very beginning.

2.  conscious of body language; try not to look impatient (staring at
your watch, laptop, or cell phone, or texting is a dead giveaway).
Watch others – are they still engaged (making eye contact, look focused)
or are they dropping out (finger tapping, texting, etc.)? Is someone
saying “yes” but shaking their head “no?"

3.  Do not feel compelled to speak when the group falls silent.
Eventually someone will speak; most people are very uncomfortable in
silence lasting more than a few seconds.

4.  Be patient. When someone else is speaking, allow a moment (count –
1001, 1002) before responding, even if you know exactly what you want
to say. It allows the speaker a chance to finish their thought without
interruption and gives the impression you are listening.

5.  Accept, or at least tolerate, different communications styles.
Some like to organize their thoughts before speaking – this may take a
few minutes but is often worth the wait.

6.  Make sure you’re watching to see if someone can’t seem to get a
word in. Make eye contact and encourage them to speak. Ask enthusiastic
speakers to let everyone finish their thoughts and avoid interrupting –
in the nicest possible way of course.

7.  Don’t rush the conclusion. People who feel rushed aren’t going to
remember “buying in” if what they remember is feeling someone’s opinion
was shoved down their throat without out an opportunity for real
discussion.

8.  Be honest. If the feedback or input from others will not affect
your decision, don’t ask for it. Otherwise you will appear dismissive
and disrespectful of others’ time.

9.  Set expectations, “This is what I’m planning but I’d like to hear
your thoughts before I proceed” or “we need to do this in 15 minutes,
everyone gets two minutes and I’ll summarize at the end.” It helps if
everyone knows the framework you are working within and it reminds you
that you are trying to hear and learn more than just speak.

10.  Many people who respond and speak quickly are either very fast
thinkers or they think out loud while speaking. If you are one of these,
give others a chance to speak first. You’ll get a chance to hear them
and you’ll be able to adjust what you want to say.

It takes as much courage, self-discipline, and maturity to hold back
as it does to speak up, perhaps even more. However the potential gains
are significant.

Others engage more if they feel they will be heard. If you have a big
personality, giving quieter team members room to speak gives you a
chance to learn something. Perhaps not immediately “getting your way” is
a real win especially if you are wrong. Taking the pressure off
yourself to always be “performing” allows you to more actively observe
and listen. Again, you will learn things – some of which will be
helpful. It will make you look more Zen and Yoda-like. Even if you
aren’t all that wise and knowing, you’ll give that impression and that’s
all good.

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