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

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? rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.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:

Virginia  Satir's Yes No MedallionSaying No
When we have to say "no" to customers or to people in power, we're often tempted to placate with a "yes." There's a better way: learn how to say "no" in a way that moves the group toward joint problem solving.
A shouting matchCan You Hear Me Now?
Not feeling heard can feel like an attack, even when there was no attack, and then conversation can quickly turn to war. Here are some tips for hearing your conversation partner and for conveying the message that you actually did hear.
HMS Latimer during her first cable-laying run from Shanklin to CherbourgThe Advantages of Political Attack: I
In workplace politics, attackers sometimes prevail even when the attacks are specious, and even when the attacker's job performance is substandard. Why are attacks so effective, and how can targets respond effectively?
Lake Chaubunagungamaug signCreating Trust
What can you do when you discover that the environment at work is permeated with distrust? Your position in the organization does affect your choices, but here are some suggestions that might be helpful to anyone.
A schematic representation of the Milgram ExperimentToxic Conflict in Virtual Teams: Minimizing Authority
Toxic conflict in virtual teams is especially difficult to address, because we bring to it assumptions about causes and remedies that we've acquired in our experience in co-located teams. In this Part II of our exploration we examine how minimizing authority tends to convert ordinary creative conflict into a toxic form.

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

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A demanding managerComing April 14: What Micromanaging Is and Isn't
Micromanaging is a particularly dysfunctional pattern of management behavior, involving interference in the work others are supposedly doing. Confusion about what it is and what it isn't makes effective response difficult. Available here and by RSS on April 14.
A possibly difficult choiceAnd on April 21: Choice-Supportive Bias
Choice-supportive bias is a cognitive bias that causes us to evaluate our past choices as more fitting than they actually were. The erroneous judgments it produces can be especially costly to organizations interested in improving decision processes. Available here and by RSS on April 21.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenGBFYqdeDxZESDSsjner@ChacmtFQZGrwOdySPdSsoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, 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 500-1000 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.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession-makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision-makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about 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 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.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
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.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.