This is part 2 of a short series.For context I suggest reading part 1 – I Talk Too Much – before continuing.
Recognizing that you are talking too much is only the beginning. For real change it is essential to understand why you keep doing that “thing” without thinking. This is true for eating, relationships and yes talking. When it comes to talking I have triggers. Conditions that, if I am not paying attention, will nearly always result in my mouth getting me in trouble. There are more than this but these are the ones I struggle with the most.
I don’t want to say no
The is the most common problem in all of sales. There are few things more awkward than watching a sales engineer desperately avoid saying “no my product does not do that.” Some sales people will even yell at you in the parking lot after a meeting if you ever say that to a customer, regardless of how ridiculous the ask was. This is terrible behavior. As someone who spent fifteen years on the buying side of the table I will let you in on a little secret. We know when you are avoiding it so just say “no” and save yourself the loss of credibility.
From personal experience I can say that the proper use of the word no is exceptionally powerful and will go much farther to building a trusted relationship with a customer than saying yes to everything. Following a confident “no” with asking for permission to explain why (if you know) is a great way to lead to a more productive interaction. Before you ask “why can’t I just say it depends” let me say this has been my approach for a long time. I have realized however this ultimately undermines rather than supports my credibility. I will address that in my next post.
I have PTSD
If you are in business long enough you will have scars. Projects, deals or just people that were difficult and painful. Sometimes simple conversations about features in a product or customer problems will remind you of that time a mistake was made that released all manner of evil and your mouth goes on autopilot. Like that one time a temporary admin typed rm -rf and hit enter without checking where they were on the disk first.(/dm_data in case you’re curious) Just typing that made me flinch and the right setup will trigger that story every time. It NEVER helps. Whatever your scars, the best way to avoid that is to stay in the moment and focus on what the other person needs to hear rather than what you feel like you need to say.
I refuse to let you be wrong
Unless you are a psychiatrist it is not your job to fix someone else’s reality. You may be right. The answer may be obvious to you but the other person doesn’t get it. What is the response? You tell them again. You say “in other words…” (ugh) Then you do it again. I can all but promise they heard you the first time and chose not to accept your reality. If someone wants to be wrong you cannot change them no matter how much you talk. Usually you are just torturing those that have to watch as they count the seconds until the meeting is over.
Here is a thought to consider though. Maybe you’re wrong. What if there is something about the situation you do not know and they can not tell you? If you accept that possibility in every conversation it will free you from the death spiral of repeating yourself. You can deliver your message, move on and try to learn why their view is different. It is also possible they are just stupid but that is a different post.
I want to be helpful a little too much
How can this possibly be a problem? They ask a question and I want to make sure that I give them as much information as possible so they can make the right decision. The problem is context. People are not always ready to hear what you want to say. The right people may not be in the room for that level of detail. That level of detail may not even be necessary to make the next decision in whatever process you are running. Being helpful has a dark side. It can be a selfish act and this reveals aspects of my character I would prefer not to think about. The idea begs the question, in the name of being helpful am I really motivated by how that makes me feel rather than how much it helps? As discussed in the last post, when a hero talks too much they can easily become the villain. As you create space in conversations, take a beat and ask yourself, “is what I am about to say really helpful right now.” If not then stop.
Dealing with our monologue triggers is tied to one very important trait. Self-awareness. This is not an easy thing to achieve and overthinking how you are perceived by others can be paralyzing. Done right, self-awareness paradoxically leads to focusing on the other person’s needs rather than your own. When I elevate their needs I can better evaluate the value of what I have to say to them. Don’t judge your words in how much they mean to you – consider how valuable they are to your listener and act accordingly.