Over-talk & Over-communication
In this episode, herdacious host Lorelei chats with Barbara Stewart about the tendency to over-talk and its repercussions on our professional lives. Do you ever find yourself droning on and on when there’s opportunity to be more concise? Do you feel tempted to fill the lulls in conversation with chit-chat or verbal fluff? Do you find yourself as the subject of avoidance in dialogue-oriented situations? If so, you, our fellow femme friend, might be an over-talker. Over-talk is the act of talking too much or for too long in ways that drown out all other speakers present. As important as it is to communicate our messages to others, Barbara reminds us that when it comes to our professional speech, more is not always better. As a communications specialist, Barbara teaches us that the habit of excessive talking in the workplace can seriously hinder our professional reputation by eliciting undesirable consequences such as avoidance and miscommunication. She also affirms that there are prescriptive steps we can take to catch ourselves in the act and work toward maximizing our communication efficiency. From embracing a natural pause in the conversation to practicing succinct exchanges with trusted coworkers, Barbara gives us the tools to better hone in on language precision so we can strive to get that twenty-sentence ramble down to the brevity of a more powerful one-two verbal punch.
Host: Lorelei Gonzalez
Co-host: Barbara Stewart
Barbara Stewart is an experienced Executive Coach focused on Leader Development and
Team Coaching. Prior to joining Endeavor Management, she founded and led Accelus
Partners as an Executive Coach for nine years before it merged with Endeavor. Combined
with her coaching experience are 20 years serving as a financial and business advisor to
C-Suite executives and business owners.
Things you will learn in this episode (chapter markers available):
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Looking for additional resources on this topic? Check out our blog “The Importance of Communication as a Leader”
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Lorelei: Welcome to HERdacious, a podcast for audacious women. A warm greetings to you all, this is HERdacious, the podcast for audacious women looking to make career moves, and HERdacious is the podcast to help you in that journey. My name is Lorelei, the happy host of the show, and today we're gonna be talking about ending the habit of over-talk, and to assist in this excellent, excellent conversation, we have for you a compassionate listener and graceful facilitator of team dynamics, the director of organizational performance for Endeavor Management, Barbara Stewart.
Barbara: I am really excited to talk about ending the habit of over-talk.
Lorelei: Barbara, to get us started in this conversation, I first want you to share with our listeners why you are so passionate about helping folks master effective communication.
Barbara: Yeah, every time I sit down with business leaders and ask where they need the most help, what I hear about is communication. And communication is this huge broad subject, we're not gonna touch on all aspects of it today, but the one area that each and every one of us can control starting right now is how many words we use to get our point across, and if we're victim is using way too many of them, we're diluting that point. And to be a leader, to be seen as a leader, to be contributing in the organization, we need to be concise in our communication.
Lorelei: Alright, help us get concise in our communication... What is over-talk?
Barbara: So think about it this way, do you remember the first time that you heard yourself recorded?
Barbara: And you probably thought, "Oh my gosh, I sound like that?" Maybe you had a high pitch voice, or maybe like me, I talk slowly... 'cause I grew up in these Texas. It was a surprise, but one of the other things you may have heard in there is, "Oh my gosh, it took me 10 minutes to make that point," and that's what we mean by over-talk. It is a point that can be made succinctly and quickly but gets drug out and so the meaning is completely lost.
Lorelei: Why do people over-talk or over-explain themselves?
Barbara: There are many reasons why, we're gonna focus on three today. The first is that we process out loud, it's a normal, natural way of thinking and sharing our thoughts out loud. Number two, we think it adds to credibility, we over-talk thinking that the more we have the floor, the more credible we are. And then number three, we feel like we haven't been listened to, so the first one we process out loud is truly that... Someone asks us a question or we're involved in a brain storming session, and we're like, "Well, as I think about that," and we share our thoughts out loud with the group. And that can be fine if it's with your immediate team, but if you're in a bigger setting, like maybe sitting across the table from clients or shareholders or something like that, they don't need to be part of every thought that you're processing in that moment. When we look at the second one, which is that we think it adds to credibility, it's that whole point of having the floor. So the more my voice is heard, and particularly as women we hear that we aren't heard enough, sometimes that comes from a lower pitch projection that we have, we aren't loud enough, and then sometimes it simply because we don't speak up, and so we are on the other side of thinking, as long as I have the floor, I'm gonna keep talking because that adds my credibility. And the third point, when we feel like we haven't been listened to and we find someone that listens to us... Oh my goodness, they hear everything that we have not had a friend or space or time to share, and that can be really dangerous for our careers if we're sharing too much, if we're talking too much, people are gonna avoid that, and if we ever share in a situation with a client, we're not gonna be invited back.
Lorelei: It could be seen as unprofessional.
Lorelei: Well, in your professional opinion, which one of those do you think is the most challenging to break from?
Barbara: I think that last one, that we haven't been listened to, because it is unique. When we think about the world that we live in, and how much our communication now is through this video screen or it's through a text that we aren't often listened to, and so when we find someone that listens to us, what a treat that is.
Lorelei: How does over-explaining or over-talk hurt us on our career trajectory?
Barbara: Yeah, we'll start with the people that you work with, and as a team, you're supposed to be collaborating and working together, all things. But every time that you engage with someone, they know, "Oh, Barbara asked for a 30-minute meeting, I better take an hour, because it will take that long to get through all of the conversation and not all of that conversation is helpful," so you may find that your teammates actually avoid those kinds of meetings, and then you're left out of that team collaboration because there's nothing short with you. Take it to the next level. And working with your boss, the same thing may happen, right? We all would like more immediate feedback in the work that we're doing, but if your boss has come to know that every time I go talk to Barbara, it's 30 minutes, they're not gonna be coming to have those kinds of conversations because they can't break away. Again, you're left out, you don't get the feedback you need, and they look and see someone that they can't move into a position because of the excess talking, the over-talk. The other thing that I recommend is to value what we're saying.
Lorelei: What do you mean?
Barbara: Well, if something could be said in two sentences and you take 20, you left the person out there figuring out of those 20 sentences, which ones do I need to pay attention to?
Lorelei: Oh yeah, creates confusion.
Barbara: Exactly. What was the most important point in what you shared? Another point around this is we're there in that one conversation, and we took 20 sentences to explain something that could have been explained in two, then we don't have the confidence to shorten that down, it's kind of like a vicious circle. We start doubting the validity of what we're saying, so we just keep trying to explain it further.
Lorelei: Alright, alright, well, to keep following this trail for another moment or so, because this podcast is specifically aimed towards women, how does over-explaining something or the habit of over-talk specifically affect women?
Barbara: There are a lot of people that have a hard time talking too much, there may be a perception that women talk more, and therefore, when it happens, it gets noticed. Where as with other people who we don't perceive as being over-talkers, and that would be men in this case, we don't notice when it happens because we're not expecting it to happen.
Lorelei: 'Cause it's normalized.
Lorelei: Okay, alright, well, we're gonna take this quick moment for sponsor break. We will be right back.
Sponsor: Hi, Barbie here from Moonray, husband and wife indie-pop duo. If you enjoy the intro music. We invite you to listen to our debut EP, Honeymoon. Streaming now on all platforms. Visit www.moonray-music.com for more.
Lorelei: And we're back talking with Barbara Stewart about over-talk. So Barbara, how can we identify that over-talk or over-explanation is a problem for us?
Barbara: This can be tricky because the over-talker feels quite confident in their communication skill, they actually think they're a great communicator a majority of the time.
Lorelei: Oh, good, good.
Barbara: Yeah, it can be a real blind spot for people, so if you're looking to identify it, it just takes some close introspection that you might notice, or your teammates notice. It's rather harsh, but if you wanna have that 30-minute meeting or are you finding that there's not much time on their calendar, or you have the meeting and oh my goodness, there's a call that they have to jump on, there's something at the end of the meeting, at the end of the 30 minutes, they have to be somewhere else very quickly... Another phone call, another meeting, which is quite acceptable these days now that we have back-to-back calls, back-to-back meetings. But you might wanna pay attention to that. And of course, the great excuse... I've really gotta go to the restroom.
Lorelei: Classic get out of jail free card.
Barbara: Exactly. So being aware of those kinds of signals. Again, it can be very subtle and it could be hard for you to pick up on, the best thing to do is ask for this kind of feedback.
Lorelei: From who?
Barbara: Ask a friend, always great to start there, and hopefully it's a friend who would tell you the truth. As a colleague, we all have trusted colleagues at work, so find that one that you feel comfortable with and ask them that question. And then yes, you do wanna ask your supervisor, your boss for that kind of feedback.
Lorelei: Alright, so let's say we've done that and we have identified ourselves of being guilty of the occasional over-talk experience, what can we do to start self-correcting?
Barbara: Friends and your close teammates are a wonderful place to start. And in fact, if you're confident enough, and I encourage you to do this, is ask for their help. Be honest with them, "this is something I'm working on, this is part of my growth plan for this year, I'm working on being more succinct in my conversation, and I would appreciate your help."
Lorelei: That's nice to clear.
Barbara: We all love to help, and that would be the best place to get that kind of feedback. The other things that you can do are when you're preparing for a meeting with someone other than those teammates, maybe it's with a client, maybe it's with the boss or another colleague, is to prepare for the meeting. A lot of us like to wing things, "I'm more natural when I just go in there and speak off the cuff." When you go in there and speak off the cuff, you keep speaking and speaking and speaking because you haven't thought about the point that you wanted to get across, prepare for those conversations. What is the point that I need to make? What is the resolution that we need to get whatever the focus of that conversation, and then think about what it's going to take for you to communicate that in as few words as possible. A great way to progress in your career is also to engage a coach to help with this, I've shared some things that ask you to be confident and reach out to your team and ask for their help, and a lot of us frankly, aren't there. We're not in a place that we're that confident to ask for that help from people that we work with, and so you can ask for that from a professional coach, a coach that can help you put together just the kind of strategy that I described. When working with people on this not-so great habits of over-talking, we ask them to get more precise with their language, that doesn't mean that you're using bigger words or words that are confusing to others, it's just that you're more precise, they're fewer words.
If you're having a bit of discomfort with that, what you can always do is ask the audience, Was it clear? Did you understand what I was sharing? And that's a really good cue because as you mentioned earlier, sometimes it's a one-way conversation with the over-talker, it's pretty much always a one-way conversation, and so for us to pause and say, "Oh, was I clear?" Or "Do you need more information?" Turns the conversation over to the listener.
Lorelei: That's a really good tactic because that helps remove an assumption that you either have to keep going or that they don't understand what you're saying, which is why I think many people might be over-talking in the first place. "Let me just keep going with this thought 'cause you don't look like you know what's going on yet." Alright, well, I wanna hone in on that succinct language, that language precision for a moment, how we develop our ability to be more precise in our words. You mentioned practicing, you mentioned getting a coach, are there certain tricks that we can build into ourselves into our patterns of behavior to catch ourselves doing it?
Barbara: So a lot of times we feel that we'll wear in a conversation and we're ask a question or we're expected to contribute in some way that we need to respond immediately. This goes back to the beginning where I talked about processing out loud. A great habit that we can get into is to take a pause before we speak, it's hard for people to do, they wanna jump right in there, make their point, make sure that they're heard, or make sure they have the floor. But if we can take a pause, then we can say what we need to say, make our point in fewer words.
Lorelei: But that means people have to be comfortable with silence, with taking a moment of silence. And I don't think that a lot of folks are comfortable with silence in professional communication or even personal communication.
Barbara: [pauses in long silence] You are right. And how about that silent pause I just gave you?
Lorelei: [laughter] It was well played. Well played.
Barbara: Yes, you're right. It's a challenging thing to learn. That pause. And it goes both directions. So we're the over-talker, right, but we have that awareness. I'm over talking, let me stop and ask if the person needs additional information that we stop and we ask, and then what do we do? We wait for their answer. We don't infer some stuff or offer some other feedback or mention that other thing that we did the other day, or whatever it is to fill in the space. We don't jump back in until the other person responds.
Lorelei: Love it. It makes me think of Parkinson's law, where a thing will expand to fill the allowable time, so if a meeting is supposed to last for an hour and we finished in 30 minutes, well, gosh, there's 30 minutes left... Surely there must be something else for us to talk about.
Barbara: Surely, yes. Or maybe I could have 30 minutes back.
Lorelei: Novel idea. When we're developing our own professional skill sets, we tend to start noticing these challenges in others, so what happens if we notice one of our peers are colleagues over-talking and we wanna help them course correct, how do we reach out in a kind and helpful way that doesn't make folks feel defensive?
Barbara: Yes, we can take this a couple of different ways, I'm gonna take the kind and gentle way first, and that this is a colleague that we care about as part of our team that we wanna see succeed. So perhaps the conversation is over lunch and just talking about career goals and things that we're both working on, and so you establish an environment of trust, you establish this environment of sharing what you're working on, and maybe that allows the other person to share. And then maybe in that kind of conversation you can share, "There is something I've observed, in fact, I dealt with it a little bit early on in my career, and I think this might be helpful for you."
Lorelei: I love how you build the connection between... "I struggled with this too." That allows for the empathy. It's nice. Alright, so you gave us the kind version, I imagine there's a less subtle way to do it.
Barbara: Yes, there is. And you have to, again, be aware of who you're working with or talking with in this particular situation, but you may be able to say to the person, "Sherry, every time we get together, the conversations go much longer than either of us have planned for, and I think we can be a little bit more concise in our communication. Do you think that's something that we could work on together?"
Lorelei: I like it.
Barbara: It was still nice, wasn't it?
Lorelei: It was succinct and clear. And you didn't have to over explain what you were saying.
Barbara: What's interesting about giving feedback around this, because again, most people don't see it, they don't hear it, that they're over-talkers, and it's hard for people to wanna correct that. The resource that I shared with you where research has been done, what they found is that even supervisors are reluctant to give this kind of feedback, so I would say one for those of you out there that are listening that are supervisors, get comfortable with this, get comfortable with helping your people be more succinct in their communication, and if you're not getting feedback from your supervisor, ask for it. Go in prepared. Go in with your list of what do I wanna know about my career trajectory and how I need to change and grow, and go in and ask for that feedback. Ask about your communication skills.
Lorelei: Awesome, Barbara. Lastly, share some resources for our listeners to continue their educational journey.
Barbara: Yeah, one of the best resources that I have personally experienced is toastmasters. Toastmasters has been around for a very long time, and for a very good reason, they help people become leaders. If you're not getting that kind of development in the workplace that you're in, seek out toastmasters, you'll learn how to speak on your feet, you'll learn how to lead, you'll learn how to be more concise in your language, multi-purpose, you'll get so many benefits from just that one resource that you tap into and attend regularly.
Barbara: There are a few others out there. As I was looking for resources, I was amused to find that our government has a website called plainlanguage [dot] com.
Barbara: Yes, this is more around the written word, and I know it is surprising because many of the things we get from the government don't seem to be in plain English, however, there is an organization out there that provides examples, writing examples, title examples around plain language. The last resources, that research paper that I mentioned, and I know you have to link that to share with the listeners if they wanna dig deeper into compulsive talkers.
Lorelei: Compulsive talkers. Alright, yes, all three of those resources will be listed in our show notes for those of you who do in fact wanna dig deeper. Now, speaking of digging real deep and going for the gold... The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics have come to an end. Maybe you've got a glimpse of Olympic diver, Tom Daley knitting or discovered several sports you didn't even know were sports like artistic swimming or badminton, sport climbing, all of which makes more sense of being classified as a sport than golf. Yeah, I said that. Whether you're a devout follower of the games, have been keeping up with bits and pieces of it here or there, or opt out of it all together, I'm sure you have gained at least some tiny take away from the summer's premiere sports event. So today's femme fact is a quick recap of just a handful of the women from around the globe who broke records and constraints on a world stage. During week one of the Olympics, weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines won a gold medal in women's weightlifting, making her the first person in 100 years to win a gold medal for any event for the Philippines. She also broke an Olympic record lifting 493 pounds in two combined lifts. Japan's Abe Hifumi and Abe Uta became the first and only brother sister duo to both win Olympic gold medals in the same sport on the same day, and that sport was Judo. Could you imagine the childhood brawls between two siblings who would grow up to become Olympic gold medalist in Judo... Good, gracious.
Well, over in the realm of sports that I will never try my hand at unless I wanna break every bone in my body, we have BMX freestyle rider Chelsea Wolfe. Chelsea made history this summer as the first out transgender athlete from Team USA to go to the Olympics, hoping that her participation will inspire young trans girls from around the world to believe in themselves and to know that they can accomplish anything too. In the world of water polo team USA water polo player, Maggie Steffens set a record for the most goals scored by an individual player in their Olympic career history, having scored 49 goals throughout her Olympic tenure. And when we're talking about the water, we can't not talk about Katie Ledecky, who claimed two golds and two silvers at the Summer Games for a whopping 10 Olympic medal total, seven of which are gold. Tokyo 2020 marked skateboarding's debut as a sport in the Summer Olympics. And the three young medalist showed the world that with each successive generation, young people are becoming terrifyingly more talented. Sakura Yosozumi of Japan, Kokona Hiraki also of Japan, and Sky Brown of Great Britain won gold, silver, and bronze respectively in skateboarding. Sky who was 13 years old became Great Britain's youngest medalist ever, and Kokona, who is 12 years old, accompanied Sky as being one of the youngest medalists since 1936. The 19-year-old gold medal winner Sakura, also the first woman ever to win gold in skateboarding, divulged to reporters that most of her training took place in her own backyard, because apparently in Japan, there are so few skate parks that her family had to build one at their house in order for her to practice. Over in track and field, Yulimar Rojas from Venezuela broke the 1995 world record in the triple jump this year. Yulimar set a record at a, get this, 15.67-meter jump. That's 51 frigging feet. She won Venezuela's only gold medal at this year's Olympics. Now, staying with track and field, I know you know the name of Allyson Felix, like you gotta know. This famous team USA sprinter just became the most decorated American track and field star in all of Olympic history, eclipsing Carl Lewis's previous record of nine total medals. Felix, who finished out the 2020 games with 11 total medals from her five Olympic appearances, capped off her season with a gold medal in the 400 meter relay, alongside teammates, Sydney McLaughlin, Dalilah Muhammad and Athing Mu.
Allyson dedicated her efforts to her daughter Cameron, who she'd given birth to in 2018, because the now 11 medal Olympian had garnered some blow back for choosing motherhood in concert with her sports career. Most notably, Felix was sponsored by Nike for years, and when her contract expired and she was negotiating a new one while pregnant, Nike asked her to be the face of a new women's empowerment campaign they were launching. Now, Felix attempted to negotiate said contract to include maternity protections post pregnancy, and Nike chose to deny maternity protection and, get this, offered a 70% pay cut too. So she bounced and started her own brand, but I wanna share a powerful quote from the op-ed she wrote about her Nike experience, "Protection during maternity isn't just limited to Olympians. Working women all over the United States deserve protection when they have children, we shouldn't have to rely on companies to do the right thing. Our families depend on it." Now, in another emotional Team USA win, gymnast Sunisa Lee won gold in the women's gymnastics all-around event, making her the first Hmong American to represent on the United States Olympic Team and to win a gold medal.
But Simone Biles is likely the Olympic highlight that most of us are familiar with. Simone Biles, the 24-year-old United States gymnast hailing from Houston, is objectively the most decorated gymnast in history with 32 Olympic and World championship medals and subjectively, but not subjectively, possibly the greatest gymnast of all time. Simone withdrew midway through the team competition because her mental health was suffering, experiencing what gymnasts call the "twisties," which can be life-threatening when performing Olympian level gymnast moves. She had qualified for all six gymnastic events but only returned to the competition in the final individual balance beam event where she happily won bronze. Being one of the most prominent athletes in gymnastics, the Olympics, and by dare I say the world, Simone's actions sparked international conversations about the relationship between mental health, physical health and the athletes themselves. Athletes are becoming more adamant about vocalizing on the taboo with mental health conversations in sports, as they are often expected to put their mental health on the back burner for the sake of their competition, but this comes at a cost and Simone's display of courage, discipline and self-advocacy exemplified to all athletes that it is perfectly okay and in fact necessary to prioritize your mental health and thus your person. Especially if you're doing something like somersaulting through the air or sprinting your muscles into failure. I imagine most of us would feel a little concerned for our safety in moments like those, I mean, unless you're a golfer... Yeah, golfer.
As the delayed Tokyo games demonstrated there is no shortage of capable women, nor will there ever be, but the summer 2024 Paris games are projected to have exact gender balance of participants, the first Olympic Games to ever do so. We expect many more great leaps forward for women, so whatever you're up to in the next few years, know that all of us here at HERdacious will be rooting for you to take home the gold. Barbara, you were absolutely golden with us today, and we so appreciate your time and your expertise. Do you have any parting words of wisdom for us as we leave this conversation?
Barbara: Yes, a quote that might help us think about this conversation. Thomas Jefferson once said, "The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words, when one will do."
Lorelei: Excellent, and so we shall... Barbara, thank you so much for joining us today. It was an absolute pleasure.
Barbara: Yes, thank you.
Lorelei: And thank you all for tuning in. Remember, episodes drop every Monday, if you haven't subscribed, please consider doing so, that super helps our show, and you are also welcome to rate and review us. That also helps our show, and you can drop me a line at herdacious [at] herdacity [dot] org. That will also be linked in our show notes. Until next time, my name is Lorelei, this was HERdacious, go out there and go for the gold fam.