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 Top Next Issue
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More articles on Conflict Management:
- Assumptions and the Johari Window: II
- The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions
of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool
called the Johari window.
- The Advantages of Political Attack: II
- In workplace politics, attackers are often surprisingly successful with even the flimsiest assertions.
Often, they prevail, in part, because they can choose the time and venue for their attacks. They also
have the advantage of preparation. How can targets respond effectively?
- Clearing Conflict Fog
- At times, groups can become so embroiled in destructive conflict that conventional conflict resolution
becomes ineffective. How does this happen? What can we do about it?
- Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous.
But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection
of their techniques.
- Some Consequences of Blaming
- Both blame-oriented cultures and accountability-oriented cultures can learn from their mistakes. Accountability-oriented
cultures learn how to avoid repeating their mistakes. Blame-oriented cultures learn how to repeat their
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming December 13: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: I
- To take the risks that learning and practicing new ways require, we all need a sense that trial-and-error approaches are safe. Organizations seeking to improve processes would do well to begin by assessing their level of psychological safety. Available here and by RSS on December 13.
- And on December 20: Contrary Indicators of Psychological Safety: II
- When we begin using new tools or processes, we make mistakes. Practice is the cure, but practice can be scary if the grace period for early mistakes is too short. For teams adopting new methods, psychological safety is a fundamental component of success. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
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