Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 13, Issue 46;   November 13, 2013: Overtalking: III

Overtalking: III

by

Overtalking other people is a practice that can be costly to organizations, even though it might confer short-term benefits on the people who engage in it. If you find that you are one who overtalks others, what can you do about it?
Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torch

Firefighter lighting grass using a drip torch. Drip torches are also used in lighting backfires, which are helpful in controlling wildland fires in many kinds of terrain. A backfire consumes fuel that lies in the path of the main fire. When properly set, the air rushing in to feed the main fire directs the backfire toward the main fire. When the backfire and main fire meet, the main fire has no place to turn for fuel, and the two of them annihilate each other.

Stopping your own overtalking by saying to yourself, "I will not overtalk," might work, but it requires constant vigilance and great force of will. Such an effort is subject to a psychological constraint known as ego depletion. Recent evidence strongly suggests that we have a finite supply of what is commonly called "will power" — the ability to self-regulate. A more effective method of controlling any behavior — in this case, overtalking — is to find something else to do instead. Here we suggest making notes about what we want to say when it's our turn to speak. These notes not only keep us occupied while our conversation partner is still speaking, but they also make us more effective when we do speak.

Using will power to stop overtalking is like trying to extinguish a wildland fire by snuffing it out, which is not very effective. A more effective approach (often) is to use a backfire to deprive the wildland fire of fuel. Making notes about what you want to say is like lighting a backfire. It deprives you of the resources you would need if you were to engage in overtalking.

Photo courtesy U.S. National Park Service.

It's difficult to control overtalking by others. No, wait, it's impossible, because we each are in charge of our own overtalking. If you're convinced that overtalking is a problem for us all, and you no longer want to contribute to that problem, the first step is to control your own overtalking. Here are six steps to controlling it.

Notice your own overtalking
When you notice your own overtalking, note it, because you want to know how frequently it happens, and with whom. Noticing your own overtalking is easy. The tricky part is acknowledging that you initiated it, if you did. Note that, too.
Accept that you do overtalk others
Acceptance is easier if you have the data you've been collecting above. And if you were the initiator in the bulk of the incidents, denial is especially difficult.
Resolve that you'll change
Think about it: Only you can stop your own overtalking. If you don't stop it, management or your peers might intervene in some way to create serious difficulty for you.
Tell someone
To intensify your commitment to change, tell someone that you'll soon gain control of your overtalking. Recognize that control doesn't mean cessation. It means, first, that you won't be initiating overtalking. Second, it means that when you do overtalk, it will be solely for the purpose of announcing, politely, that someone is talking over you.
Devise alternatives
To keep from initiating overtalking, find something better to do instead. For example, make notes — mental or written — about what you'll say. Then say it without overtalking. If someone else initiates overtalking, stop talking. If it happens in private conversation, mention that you were interrupted, that you regard that as disrespectful, and that it must stop. If it occurs in a meeting, speak to the chair privately afterwards, and explain that you believe it's the chair's duty to control interruptions. If the chair cannot or will not control interruptions, speak to the chair's supervisor, or if that fails, Noticing your own overtalking
is easy. The tricky part is
acknowledging that you
initiated it, if you did.
speak to your own supervisor.
Work to reduce overtalking by others
Your options for helping reduce overtalking by others depend strongly on your organizational role. Certainly you can influence the incidence of overtalking within your own span of responsibility. But you can also speak up when you witness it happening between others in your presence. As a bystander, you can avoid blaming the people engaged in overtalking by asking them to speak one at a time, because you can't understand them when they overtalk each other.

Any of the above actions that involve interacting with — or demanding something from — people who regard themselves as your superiors can be extremely risky politically. Taking any action that would threaten your career or your continued employment is probably unwise. First in this series  Go to top Top  Next issue: Ego Depletion: An Introduction  Next Issue

101 Tips for Managing Conflict Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenmRMtYYKMtBRvarwFner@ChacpEGxAbNgtjuPbEkBoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Conflict Management:

Acrobatics requires trustThe High Cost of Low Trust: I
We usually think of Trust as one of those soft qualities that we would all like our organizational cultures to have. Yet, truly paying attention to Trust at work is rare, in part, because we don't fully appreciate what distrust really costs. Here are some of the ways we pay for low trust.
A man using a chainsawDiscussion Distractions: II
Meetings are less productive than they might be, if we could learn to recognize and prevent the most common distractions. Here is Part II of a small catalog of distractions frequently seen in meetings.
James Madison, author of the Bill of RightsTeamwork Myths: Conflict
For many teams, conflict is uncomfortable or threatening. It's so unpleasant so often that many believe that all conflict is bad — that it must be avoided, stifled, or at least managed. This is a myth. Conflict, in its constructive forms, is essential to high performance.
U.S. Congressman Jim Moran talks with constituents at a meeting on the federal budgetImpasses in Group Decision-Making: III
In group decision-making, impasses can develop. Some are related to the substance of the issue at hand. With some effort, we can usually resolve substantive impasses. But treating nonsubstantive impasses in the same way doesn't work. Here's why.
A diagram of effects for compulsive talkingCompulsive Talkers at Work: Addiction
Incessant, unending talking about things that the listener doesn't care about, already knows about, or can do nothing about is an irritating behavior that harms both talker and listener. What can we do about this?

See also Conflict Management and Effective Meetings for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Artist's depiction of a dust storm on Mars with lightningComing July 5: Tackling Hard Problems: II
In this Part II of our look at solving hard problems, we continue developing properties of the solution, and look at how we get from the beginning to the end. Available here and by RSS on July 5.
Masonry archesAnd on July 12: Performance Issues for Non-Supervisors
If, in part of your job, you're a non-supervisory leader, such as a team lead or a project manager, you face special challenges when dealing with performance issues. Here are some guidelines for non-supervisors. Available here and by RSS on July 12.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrencCubCLCeETsVuyqkner@ChacnhUpccRLoseektfaoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here are some upcoming dates for this program:

Creating High Performance Virtual Teams
Many Creating High Performance Virtual Teamspeople experience virtual teams as awkward, slow, and sometimes frustrating. Even when most team members hail from the same nation or culture, and even when they all speak the same language, geographic dispersion or the presence of employees from multiple enterprises is often enough to exclude all possibility of high performance. The problem is that we lead, manage, and support virtual teams in ways that are too much like the way we lead, manage, and support co-located teams. In this program, Rick Brenner shows you how to change your approach to leading, managing, and supporting virtual teams to achieve high performance using Simons' Four Spans model of high performance. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

The Race to the South Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers
On 14The Race to the Pole: Ten Lessons for Project Managers December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough, but to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. Lessons abound. Read more about this program. Here's an upcoming date for this program:

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
21st Century Business TravelAre your business trips long chains of stressful misadventures? Have you ever wondered if there's a better way to get from here to there relaxed and refreshed? First class travel is one alternative, but you can do almost as well (without the high costs) if you know the tricks of the masters of 21st-century e-enabled business travel…
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
303 Tips for Virtual and Global TeamsLearn how to make your virtual global team sing.
101 Tips for Managing ChangeAre you managing a change effort that faces rampant cynicism, passive non-cooperation, or maybe even outright revolt?
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Exchange your "personal trade secrets" — the tips, tricks and techniques that make you an ace — with other aces, anonymously. Visit the Library of Personal Trade Secrets.