Let’s face it. There are folks who talk too much during conversations, brainstorms, staff meetings – you name it – by making a point and then rambling on and on about it, sucking the oxygen from the room.
Whether they do it because they are routinely talk more than others, or they need lots of attention, or they’re simply unaware of a proper balance between talking or listening, it’s annoying and needs to be curtailed.
As manager, you may be tempted to say:
- “I think we’ve heard enough, Henry. Let’s move on.”
- “Almost finished, Vanessa?”
- “Yes, Bob, we get it. Anybody else have something to offer?”
Responses like these are not helpful or productive. They are (potentially) embarrassing to the speaker, inconsiderate, and serve as reminders to everyone that you hold more power (and are therefore more important) than the speaker. You’re simply throwing your weight around.
There’s actually a simple way to intervene and take the conversation away from the over-talker. Just say, “Alison, may I piggyback on what you’re saying?”
Piggyback? What’s what? What does it mean?
In this context, it means “build on.” If I piggyback, I take your ideas about something, and put my fingerprints on the issue. Wait for Tim to pause when he’s going on and on, and say, “Let me piggyback on that, Tim.” Three things happen at the same instant:
- Tim stops talking. (Two thumbs up!)
- Most likely, Tim is flattered, not frustrated.
- You take control of the conversation. You can even change the subject and it will be a positive, not a negative. “Tim has offered quite a bit on how we could market this idea. I’d like to build on that and add some thoughts about the budget.”
Having doubts about this technique?
Try it for yourself. In the middle of three different conversations, whether the other person is talking too much or not, find a way to say something like this: “That’s a good (or interesting, or fascinating, or important, etc.) point, Amy. Let me piggyback on that.” See what happens. I’m betting she’ll be flattered and curious to see what you have to say next.
Once you’ve perfected this technique, you’ll be far better able to facilitate a conversation, whether that be in a group or during a one-on-one, when someone starts going on and on and on…