I talk too much in meetings!

A reader writes:

I am a fairly young professional in a fairly casual office at a fairly small nonprofit. Recently, I received some feedback from my manager that I need to be “cautious of meeting etiquette,” that I should work toward not taking over or dominating the conversation in meetings and not feel as though I have to share everything that I know in a meeting.

As well, I know from prior conversations that my manager thinks I sound like a know-it-all (I’m paraphrasing, she didn’t say that) in meetings with vendors, particularly tech/IT vendors. This is likely because I often re-state or clarify aloud what the vendor has just said, for two reasons — one, to solidify it in my own head, and two, because I can see that several of my coworkers, who are all senior to me, older than me, and by their own admission not very tech-savy, are getting lost.

I know this feedback is warranted — I am definitely a talker, and I grew up in a household where if you didn’t interrupt someone else you never spoke because there was never a lull in the conversation. I have had similar feedback before and though my manager acknowledges that I am getting better about not interrupting my (all senior to me) coworkers, apparently this is still an issue as I am still receiving this feedback.

I’ve tried to simply remember to stay quiet and let other people talk, but then I get excited about something and forget. Do you (or your readers) have any advice about specific or concrete things I can do in order to kick my over-talkative/over-explaining habit?

Well, first, it’s great that you recognize this is something to work on, and it’s great that your manager was willing to give you the feedback. When this really becomes a problem is when someone isn’t aware that they’re doing it or resists hearing feedback about it.

It might help to do some deliberate thinking about how much you should be talking in a meeting, because it sounds like your norms might be off there. Let’s say that you’re in a meeting with six people. Assuming you’re not leading this meeting (and often even if you are), let’s say that you shouldn’t be talking more than anyone else, so no more than one-sixth of the time — that’s fair, right? (There are some exceptions to this, but given the issue at hand, let’s go with that formula.) Then, you also need to factor in who else is in the meeting with you. You’re the most junior person in these meetings, so you should nearly always be talking less than everyone else. (Because, in general, most office cultures assume that the more senior you are, the more valuable your contributions … with some obvious exceptions, of course.) So let’s say that takes it to one-tenth of the time … meaning that 90% of the time in meetings you probably should just be listening.

This isn’t a precise formula, obviously; there is no precise formula, and different meeting contexts call for different behavior. But because you know this is a problem, you’ve got to start somewhere, and the idea here is to get you recalibrating your norms about how much talking is appropriate so that you can start thinking about it in a different way.

So, how do you make sure you stay in listening mode most of the time? For starters, you can decide to speak up only when you believe that what you’re going to say will truly advance the conversation in some way. No more summarizing for others (let them ask if they don’t understand something), and no more speaking just to share your thoughts. The litmus test is this: Is what you’re about to say necessary for others to hear as part of this conversation? And are you the only one likely to say it? (On that second question, try waiting to see if someone else makes the same point, rather than rushing in to make it.)

I want to be clear: These aren’t blanket rules that I’d encourage everyone to use in meetings. More often than not, I’d like to see people speak up more, not less, especially at junior levels. So these rules are only relevant in your particular case, because you are being told that you need to alter your behavior in this realm and because you agree it’s a problem. I don’t want it to be misconstrued as me hushing people generally.

One last thing: If you are interrupting anyone, you have to cut that out, 100%, right now. That never goes over well, and especially not when you’re doing it to people more senior to you. And the only way to fix that one is to genuinely believe that it’s rude to do and be vigilant about not being so eager to speak that you’re willing to plow into what someone else is saying. You’ve got to monitor yourself like a hawk on that, because that can do real damage to how you’re perceived. (Honestly, so can the rest of this, but this one in particular you Just Cannot Do.)

Anyway, I think it’s great that you’re committed to taking this on, and I bet that you’ll kick this habit if you really try to. What other advice do people have?

{ 130 comments… read them below }

  1. RLS

    OP, I feel you! It has taken a LOT of self-control to reduce my verbose habits. It doesn’t help that I am outspoken as well — if something’s Not Right, I will SAY SO (I have learned how to actually do this better over the years as well :)

    Something that helped me was to have notes beforehand. Meetings are usually planned and I will have a small outline with me, with a very small structured outline. Even if I just have one or two things to bring up. I check them off as I meet them, and make sure I do it quickly.

    Sometimes I can be a little know-it-ally as well, but once I got quiet and stopped offering unsolicited “advice” and clarification, people started asking me for it. I often have to repeat/rephrase as well to make sure I understood, but I just go back to jotting down my notes and if my translation of the message didn’t work, well then…we’d find out and it was no harm done.

    1. Anonymous

      This is a good point.

      I also grew up in kind of a large family where not interrupting loudly meant you never got a word in edgewise. As a quiet adolescent, this frustrated me to no end. During meetings, if something occurs to you while someone else is speaking, jot it down quickly in your notes, and after a moment, if it still truly relevant/important, you’ll remember what you wanted to say.

    2. Rana

      Yes, and writing down things during the meeting instead of saying them aloud takes some of the edge off of not saying them. I know I blurt things out because I’m afraid of losing my ideas, so if I write them down, I don’t have that anxiety.

      1. Lacey

        This! I am always worried that I’m going to lose an idea, or worse, that I’m going to miss an oppertunity to contribute, so I tend to over-contribute (and I’ve caught myself interupting too, which is a harder habit to break than smoking, I find!)

        I’m going to try this more often. If I write things down, then I can summarize later, and if there’s something important, it will still be important when the other person is done talking.

        Thanks!

    3. carlo

      Hi Alison,
      I definately feel for you as well. I’ve been looking for an article about this because it reminds me of myself :) also being a techy in a “business” environment. The best meeting style I’ve come across is not to say anything but rather treat it as a reconaissance mission. After almost 10 years I have worked out why. I believe meetings are not designed for problem solving (even when they are). Problem solving and lobbying should be done after the meeting. The real reason for a meeting is to get all the facts and opionions on the table…and thats it. So them them all talk ..the more the better. Just take notes and process and act on them after the meeting but not in a forum environment. It opens you up to looking silly and is a potential career killer.

  2. Anonymous

    This is ironic, because I just did a developmental meeting about this exact thing with my team yesterday (we also discussed proper conference call etiquette). Our Director said she uses the WAIT method–when she feels compelled to speak, stop and think, “WAIT–Why Am I Talking?”, and if there isn’t a good reason, don’t do it.

    1. Oxford Comma

      OMG, this is brilliant. I need to print this out and tape it to my notebook that I take into meetings so that I keep my mouth shut.

      1. CindyB

        Taping a note to your notebook to remind you is one form of creating a ‘structure’ to help embed a new behaviour – like the trick of wearing rubber band around the wrist for breaking a thought pattern or habit. You can have fun with creating visual reminders: a fancy pen you take into the meeting, a sticker on your phone as a trigger to remind you not to interrupt the other person when you pick up the phone, right through to special items of clothing or jewellery. Me personally, I’m going to buy a bling ring to remind me to ask more questions rather than automatically make assumptions or give an answer – it’ll be my ‘ask don’t tell, ring.

    2. Leslie Yep

      Do you have any suggestions for this specific to a conference call? My whole team is remote from each other, so I’m wondering what etiquette/best practices you suggest when you can’t really judge body language/engagement, etc.

      1. Anonymous

        I’m glad everyone is finding my tip helpful!

        Conference calls are particularly tricky, especially when you can’t see if someone looks like they’re ready to talk, and therefore people tend to speak over each other. We actually discussed this in our meeting yesterday as well!

        It depends on your conference call vendor, but my company uses Webex. I imagine it would be different with a different vendor, but with Webex, when you’re logged into the call, you see a list of attendees, and little green squiggle lines appear next to their name if they are talking. In order to avoid talking over folks on the call, I advised my team to wait until there aren’t any squiggle lines next to anyone else’s names. And also to wait until addressed or asked to speak, or to wait until they open it up for questions at the end.

        For in person meetings, another tool we’ve discussed is maybe sitting on your hands. It may keep you from wanting to gesture and raise your hand, which in turn may incline you to wait before speaking.

        We’ve also recommended having a meeting ‘buddy’; another person in the group that can give you a private signal when you seem to be talking to much. A cough, a wink, etc. Something not readily noticeable to others.

  3. Elaine

    I moved from a pretty flat organizational structure to a more hierarchical one (after being with the military, but then, there were specific rules to go by…in my new organization everyone wants to be treated like equals but then suddenly there is a hierarchy…). I’m an introvert, but in one-on-one meetings I’ve accidentally interrupted my boss because he.talks.like.this. I think he’s done with his sentence. Also, he seems to often assume I haven’t already done what he’s suggesting I do, so I interject to say, “yup, that’s done.” He pointed at me, raised his voice, and said “don’t do that!” or “you’ve done it again!” Now, I just don’t talk at all unless he specifically asks me to. :(

    1. Esra

      I had a similar issue. A manager I didn’t get along with at all would launch into epic speeches about parts of a project that were already complete. Rather than say “Esra, are we done X?” so I could say “Yes, X is completed, I’ve sent you an email to confirm it, and am now working on Y and Z.” He would go on and on about things that were already done and issues that never came up.

      It was one of those tough situations, where pleasing my manager would’ve meant developing some bad work habits, but doing things properly meant making him not happy. Super tricky.

        1. Esra

          I ended up choosing doing things properly over making him happy.

          My work itself the organization loved, and I always kept my manager in the loop. But when it came to reviews, while the work received stellar ratings and feedback from other departments was very positive, his own feedback was that I was too independent. For me personally, accepting that we probably would never get along and that he wouldn’t be a good reference was worth keeping standards and habits I valued.

          1. EngineerGirl

            “Too independent” is not something that should ever be written in a performance review. It is a judgement, not a behavior. A legitimate complaint might be “doesn’t give updates more than once a month – needs to give them weekly” or “authorizes work without getting all needed permissions”. But too independent? Nope. That isn’t the real issue.

            1. Esra

              It was pretty awkward. I’ve never had a manager look so utterly miserable while delivering a positive review.

              1. EngineerGirl

                This is where “Can you please clarify?” gets its real power. It recently helped me with my manager – it turned out a “problem” was actually a misunderstanding of what someone said. But if that question wasn’t asked, then it never would have been resolved.

                1. Maybe

                  You can ask someone to clarify, but I’ve been in precisely that situation in which the answer was “I really can’t.” seriously.

    2. The gold digger

      I have that manager, too. I mean a boss who has specifically told me it annoys him when I ask questions. So I am working really hard to keep my mouth shut – I have warnings written in my notebook – but it is maddening to listen to someone talk through an idea that either you don’t understand or has already been resolved. I have also realized that blesshisheart my boss wants to be the one who is funny. (Even though he’s not that funny.)

    3. Minous

      I once had a manager who felt that his status as a manager gave him the right to utilize business time as a platform to talk. He would talk about work that was done as if it hadn’t started, he would go on rants that were racist. He would make inappropriate comments about people with physical disabilities. Completely non-professional.

      When I realized that he wasn’t interested in the work but only in talking, I stopped attempting to explain anything about the work to him. I would sit there with no expression on my face, pen in hand, and not interact other than the occassional nod.

      Sometimes he would attempt to engage me by asking a question he thought would anger me. I would respond in a non-commital manner. It didn’t really matter what I answered because he would interupt after half a sentence. He was trying to rattle my cage and poke me into anger.

      After a year or so he decided that I wasn’t a very entertaining or satisfying audience and would keep it to under 10 minutes and I would get to go back to doing the work the company was actually paying me for while he found someone else to drag in and harass.

      Just recently I’ve gotten a new manager who loves to talk, talk, talk. Although he doesn’t speak about inappropiate subject matters, he just goes on. He was talking at my colleague for 2.5 hours a couple of weeks ago, I left for lunch, when I came back he was still talking so it may have been 3.5 hours. That’s a long time to talk about nothing with the pretext that it’s about work.

      When he comes to me I give him my flat face and occassional nod and don’t interact. In the space of under a month he decided I wasn’t a great audience for his free-association monologues. Pretty much all he does to me now is nod as he goes by and I get to do the work I’m paid to do.

      These are not ideal situations to work in; but if I think about these types of managers as 4 year olds having a tantrum, I can cope with them much better until I find another job.

  4. Esra

    If part of the reason you’re talking/re-iterating things is to remember and keep them clear yourself, you might consider taking more (or more thorough) notes during meetings. It’s a good way to make sure you have a better picture of things before adding a verbal contribution.

    1. nodumbunny

      Yes, I was coming here to suggest this. I tend to take a lot of notes in meetings not because I ever look at them again, but because writing them down solidifies the ideas and really helps me remember things. So maybe OP can transition to using note-taking to clarify things in his/her own head instead of repeating them back.

      1. nodumbunny

        Oh also, if I’m in a big, important meeting where the bar for speaking up is even higher, and I have a question or comment, I write it down and wait. It clarifies my thought so I’m articulate when I finally speak and often the speaker will answer my question or someone else will ask it.

      2. Steph

        Another vote for note-taking – I frequently note questions that I have or additions to conversations and then later bring them up with my manager. From one probable overtalker to another, good luck – it seems like your manager is at least supportive of you working on this, instead of nagging, and good for you for being actively working on it!

          1. The gold digger

            I used to write letters to my grandmothers in long, boring meetings. It would look like I was paying rapt attention but really, I was trying to keep from slitting my wrists in boredom.

    2. Mike C.

      I came in here to say the very same thing. It’s also the excuse I use to buy fountain pens.

      “Oh, I need something nice for work…” :)

    3. Natalie

      Notes are also helpful in remembering questions or points the OP wants to raise, if that is one cause of the interrupting.

      1. Z

        If the OP is an aural learner and needs to hear herself say the information aloud in order to learn it well, maybe she can take notes in the meeting, then go back to her office, shut the door, and summarize the information for herself out loud. I know this might feel a little silly, but for some people, writing the information down isn’t what makes it stick – it’s hearing themselves say it.

        1. perrik

          Yes! This is how I learn. What I’ve found to be particularly effective is to go through my notes/documents and then lecture myself about the information using my own words and analogies. I’ll do this out loud at home or in the car; elsewhere, I’ll just mouth the words silently (but still “listen” in my head).

          Actually, at home I tend to explain the information to my cats. They are now experts on adult learning theories and evaluation methodology.

    4. Runon

      Another vote for more note taking. Writing them down during. If you have questions write that down too.

      If you need clarification you can type it up and send it to the person who can answer it after if it still isn’t clear after the meeting is over and you review your notes.

    5. Kou

      I take craaazy notes (I am practically a stenographer) but I still repeat things back to people frequently in cases where I want to make sure I actually understand, not just to remember it. And I actually know when I need to do that if I start to write something down and realize I’m unsure if the way I’m phrasing it alters the meaning of what they said– the old “if you can’t explain it, you don’t understand it” deal.

    6. clobbered

      There’s another reason note taking would help, it gets you to do something with your hands, which definitely helps. As does not making eye contact with the speaker. It helps you avoid the “I am in a 1-1 conversation with this person” frame of mind.

      If your workplace culture allows it and you can’t take notes (I feel I can’t write and listen at the same time!) just doodle. Only, you now, no naked people.

  5. Chrissi

    I am also a talker and have had to fight the interrupting habit, although mostly in social settings rather than work. What I kind of figured out is that the amount of time after someone else finishes speaking until I think it’s appropriate to speak is WAY less than everyone else – to the point that I get uncomfortable and so I just jump in, usually during a pause in the speaker’s story/remarks rather than because they are finished. I started counting, slowly, to 5 before I’d say anything and that really helped.

    As for interrupting because you get excited (I know that feeling too), you really just have to be incredibly mindful and concentrate to keep yourself from jumping in. I’m sure other people think that’s idiotic and that it shouldn’t be that hard not to do that, but I really do sympathize because I’ve done the same thing. It was something that I disliked about myself a lot, and it still took a lot of work to modify the behavior, but over time (and as you gain more experience and self-awareness) you can definitely break the habit.

    1. Steph

      I want to comment that I moved from the North to the South, and felt like I was ALWAYS interrupting people who spoke much, much more slowly than I did. I asked a colleague, who had also moved from the North to the South, what she did to overcome…and she advised me to “count to 8…don’t talk until you count to 8.” It worked like a charm – and I still use it today as I’m on conference calls a lot and sometimes it’s difficult to understand when someone is done talking.

    2. TL

      Oh! Thanks, I needed that tip. There are several people who take realllyyy long pauses and I always think they’re done when they’re not.

      1. Maggie

        I also moved from North to South, and in addition to adjusting my talking/interrupting speed to accommodate the slow speech many of my colleagues have, I have had to slow down my walk when we are walking together to meetings, trainings, etc. They call my natural pace my “Yankee” walk and I have to go about half as fast to keep back with them and not seem rude.

  6. The Engineer

    I am an conversational “overlapper” as well. It is definitely viewed as rude by a “turn taker” even though you see it as normal. You might try taking notes so that you can ask all questions/clarifications when you get your turn. You might also ask your manager about the best time (order) for you to participate. Perhaps there is a tradition of certain staff weighing in on an issue first.

    Another thing to watch is your tone with restating things for the benefit of those you think didn’t understand. They may well understand (or even if they don’t) and you are coming across as condescending. Or you are right and now they are embarrassed by the public correction. Restating via questions that focus on your need to understand can help mitigate that when an issue is raised by another.

    I ask myself “is it really necessary?” and often decide that it isn’t and stay quiet. It helps keep a meeting moving and on topic as well.

    1. COT

      “Overlapper” vs. “turn taker” is a very helpful distinction! Neither is the “wrong” approach, just different. Definitely a small aspect of workplace culture that’s easy to overlook.

      1. Anonymous

        I would also argue that there are geographic and workplace norms for conversational style in meetings. I have something of an overlapping approach in meetings in the past. This played out as interrupting and/or finishing thoughts of people. I was very used to this in my previous organizations (and many other people did it to me), so I didn’t think anything of it.

        A colleague took me aside to say, “you’re ticking people off by finishing their sentences for them.” In the workplace culture I was familiar with, this was demonstrating that you were thinking along the same lines. Given that feedback, I was able to curb my initial tendency to jump in and wait until they were finished. I’m not “cured,” but I am in recovery!

    2. Annie

      “Restating via questions” – this is important. If you restate what someone else just said for the rest of the group, you are implying that either the speaker didn’t do a good job of explaining an idea, or that the rest of the group aren’t as smart as you and need to you translate. If you reframe it as a question, it will be less annoying to people.

  7. COT

    I’m an interrupter, too, both in personal and professional conversations. Somehow I just have a hard time reading when people are done speaking, so in my desire to respond to their thoughts and continue the conversation I jump in too soon. It’s not even always about getting in my own ideas–it’s just about wanting to actively respond to what they’re saying.

    What helps me:
    1. Like Alison said, think before you speak. Is what you’re about to say on topic, genuinely helpful, and necessary to say?
    2. Tame any false thinking that might be contributing to your need to speak up. Are you speaking because you’re afraid of not being seen as intelligent and capable? Because you’re afraid that your brilliant ideas may otherwise go unheard? Find some rational mantras (“They know I’m smart; that’s why they hired me.” “I can always share my ideas later in the meeting or by email if I can’t get a word in right this minute.” “Even if I don’t help clarify, everyone will still understand just fine.” “I can learn a lot by listening to these people.”) that keep you from spiraling into these common traps.
    3. Practice active nonverbal listening, so that you can display interest and engagement without speaking. I used to worry that people wouldn’t know I was listening unless I jumped in to respond to them.
    4. Slow down your mind! Be entirely focused on what the speaker is saying, without rehearsing your response in your head. Practice staying calm and focused even when the conversation going on is really exciting.
    5. Try to force yourself to wait a through a certain period of silence before speaking up. This will vary on your workplace culture, but what if you have to count to two before filling in a silence? Maybe you just keep a faster-paced style of conversation than the others, so they’re getting drowned out because they need a little longer to process internally before they speak up.

    1. Anonymous

      Yes, I’ve found that if I actively listen more with my body language (like nodding or quietly saying “uh-huh/mm-hmm” while someone is still talking, it keeps me from jumping in too soon and reminds me to keep listening till the end. I’ve had trouble before with people who are clearly searching for a word that’s slipped their mind; I would jump in to supply the word right away. After a while, I realized this wasn’t always necessary, so I started to practice a few seconds of silent waiting and nodding until it seemed like I really should chip in.

      1. TL

        Please don’t mm-hmmm at meetings, though, OP. There’s an um-hmmer in a class I’m taking and they’re driving me crazy! :-) Great for one on one’s, though.

    2. CindyB

      Awesome suggestions! Re: point 4, this is super hard because a lot of the time we’re listening with filters on: ‘what does this mean to me? Oh I had a similar experience…’ and then comes the impulse to share. Or being preoccupied coming up with the right thing to say in response.

      I recently experienced the listening exercise of all listening exercises that really brought this home for me. If anyone is keen to try it, grab a willing volunteer:

      Sit facing each other with knees almost touching (that’s making some of you squirm right there, isn’t it? But please don’t write it off just yet.)

      One person talks for 5 minutes about something that’s important to them. The other person can’t talk, although they can use non-verbal listening cues. Then swap.

      Reflect on how it felt to be the speaker and the listener. If your experience is anything like mine, I couldn’t remember the last time someone truly listened to me for more than a minute or too, and it felt marvellous. As the listener, I was free from worrying about responding in the ‘right way’ and my brain quietened (?).

    3. Waiting Patiently

      +100 on your list
      +1000 Nonverbal listening.
      one training I went to the speaker separated us into two groups in different rooms. My group were instructed to act really distracted when were paired off with members from the other group. Our group were also instructed to ask them a question first then proceed with acting distracted and uninterested. Whataya know my partner was completely unaware that I had tuned her out. First I broke eye contact, then I took out my phone and started texting, checking my watch staring off in space….She just kept talking..lol

  8. Me TOO

    Wow, I really feel like I could have written this one. I too grew up in a family where if you didn’t interrupt – you just didn’t speak. Also, having spent some time in Mediterranean cultures – where interruption is the norm and considered a compliment, and meetings never start until 15 minutes after they were Supposed to start (a 9 am meeting does NOT start until 9:15. you arrive at 9 am, get your coffee, chat for a bit, and then start at 9:15. that’s just how it is) – I am really used to having to cut in to get my time. Usually, I do so at a lull(ish) point – or unless I know that by not cutting in someone will continue talking about a topic that may be incorrect – ie. the scenario someone commented where they said that their manager will keep talking about x, and what can go wrong with x, even though x is already complete.

    I know I shouldn’t, but I do it anyway. I also am the most junior on my team (thought I just got a promotion so go me!) but my team is a very quiet one. Often it’s a ‘Bueller? Bueller?’ situation, so I feel guilty and just speak up.

    So with all this combined, I know I’m talky. But I have yet to get feedback that it’s too much or anything – I am already pretty conscious of it.

    One thing that I DO do, is when I begin talking – but they might NOT be done and I’m not sure – is I will start, and then say ‘oh I’m sorry was I interrupting?’ and usually the person will be like ‘oh no I was done’. Sometimes, at least at my company, people will kind of keep talking, but it gets repetitive, simply because they don’t want the conversation to fall flat. It’s like they’re almost waiting to be interrupted so that they can stop talking. It’s really strange.

    1. Lily

      I think you just explained the meeting I was at. Everyone was talking and sometimes 3 people were talking at the same time and I was trying to listen to all three points, but people didn’t shut up immediately if they were interrupted. I felt it was very high energy and I was fine with it.

      1. Steph

        This is poor facilitation. I usually — either as the participant or leader of the meeting -wait for a break in the conversation, and say “Oh my! We’re all excited at one time and talking over each other. Let’s start over and start with Bob, then go to Larry, etc.”

        Alternatively, if multiple conversations are going on at the same time, and I’m in the room, I do death stare to the offending parties, and I say something to the effect of, “I’d like to hear both of the topics being discussed, can we give X the floor for now?”

        1. Jessa

          This can also be “other culture at work,” because there are a lot of cultures where talking over or at the same time is acceptable. I grew up in one. And it’s HARD very hard to learn to figure out speaking cues when you were raised in one. Seriously. I still can’t figure it out. If it’s a really, really important meeting where messing that up could ruin something, I revert back to using my disability as an excuse and grab an interpreter.

  9. Natalie

    This is a fairly minor point, but while you’re working on the interrupting generally, I would apologize if you do slip and interrupt, and then cede the floor to that person.

    1. JBeane

      I totally agree with this! It took a lot of hard work for me to change my style of speaking, which included a lot of overlapping. It’s just the way we talk in our family. I used a lot of different techniques to cut it out, but the most important thing is that when I slipped up, I apologized and ask the other person to continue. People in my professional and personal life could see that I was really trying, and everyone was very supportive about it.

    2. CoffeeLover

      I think this really goes a long way. I’ve improved leaps and bounds in the excessive talker business, but I’ll still interrupt unnecessarily especially when someone is explaining something to me. I’ll interrupt to either ask questions or reiterate or worst of all, predict the future of the explanation (i.e., “oh and then you do this!” to which the other person says “no actually”). I’ll either say something like “oh sorry, keep going.” If I’ve just consecutively interrupted them 3 times then I’ll make a little “maybe if I stopped interrupting you and let you actually explain this to me things would go a lot smoother” joke. It’s what the other person is thinking and it’s better to make light of the situation.

  10. Leslie Yep

    I have the opposite problem in that I’m a big thinker and not a big talker, but one of the little tricks I’m using might actually turn out to be helpful for you, since the root of our issues is kind of similar.

    It often just completely doesn’t occur to me to say what I’m thinking. No negative self-talk, or lack of confidence or anything; talking is something I typically only think to do after thinking and formulating for a long time. Doesn’t exactly work in a business setting! So like you, I’m trying to sort of re-write my impulses.

    As I’m taking notes in a meeting, I keep a little tally of how many times I’ve spoken up (and to provide a substantive comment, not just “yes, I agree”). This gives me something to focus on during the meeting that reminds me of what I’m trying to improve. I don’t really work for a quota or anything, but it helps me hold myself accountable for how I share my ideas. Might be worth considering.

  11. TheSnarkyB

    I think this “interruption issue.” Is really interesting – I feel like in all of my circles, it’s perfectly normal to be interrupted and people just get excited or engaged about the topic at hand – sometimes it’s even a compliment.
    Is this really a “cut it out, 100%, right now” thing? How can you tell from the outside/in an interview if the environment is interruption-friendly? In interruption-free conversations, I usually just feel like no one cares that much that the problem gets solved, or that the event turns out awesomely, or that the client feels well-served, etc.

    1. Anonymous

      Oh boy would you be in trouble where I work :) Interrupting is a a big no-no. I agree with you, other places I have worked viewed that as the normal ebb and flow of the conversations among a group of people who are all engaged on what they are talking about. Not here.

    2. Leslie Yep

      In my opinion, yes, interrupting is a major no-no and demonstrates disrespect for the person who’s talking. There’s nuance, though, of course; the distinction for me between disrespectful and ok interruption is whether the interruption drives the conversation forward, or disrupts the flow/direction.

      Some interruptions that move the conversation forward would be an interjection like “Wait, can we go back to what you just said so you can explain more about _____.” We also try to interrupt immediately when we start to go down an unproductive path — e.g. complaining about something we can’t change right now, or focusing on a big policy issue when we actually need to solve for a narrower tactical issue.

      But if someone is explaining something or introducing an idea, and others start to jump in to change the subject before they’re able to fully explain what they’re getting at, I generally find that to be unproductive and rude. YMMV, of course.

    3. Jazzy Red

      Snarky, you really can’t tell beforehand or during the job interview is interrupting is viewed as either good or bad at any company. If you know somone who works there, that person could clue you in.

      When you’re new at a job, the best thing is to observe at every type of meeting (with different people, and for different matters) at least the first couple of times, and see what people do.

  12. Runon

    I think it is also worth asking yourself why are you at this meeting. I am recognized at my organization for my tech skills. It is usually why I’m invited to the meetings I’m at. So even when I might have an opinion on something else I recognize I’m not the person they invited to talk about that. If I’m not sure I’ll ask directly of the person who set up the meeting, “What hat should I be wearing here?” and that usually gives me a good idea of what they want me to speak about.

    If you are in meetings to learn about something or get caught up on a project you want to think about something much closer to a 5-10% speaking role. If you are the expert and people are there to ask you questions on the product then you may end up at more like 40-50%.

    I’d also recommend you try to get thru one meeting a week where you cut down to just 1-2 quick moments speaking. Just for yourself, show you that you can do that, and also for you to see that the meeting still rolls along just fine and will make you feel a bit more relaxed about not having to speak up all the time.

  13. Rose

    I am going to agree with note taking too! That way you know you won’t forget your idea and also it might help satisfy that urge you have to hurry up and get the idea out. It is a good thing to be excited about what you do, but being known as the “interupter” isnt really how you want others to percieve you.

  14. Kou

    The interrupting deal is hard because, depending on where you’re from, the amount of silence that’s expected between thoughts varies a lot. Where I’m from, once someone’s stopped, they’re DONE and it’s someone else’s turn immediately. Lots of other people expect to be able to pause and think to make sure they’re done. I remember a post here where someone complained that when they paused to collect their thoughts, they were “interrupted” by someone like me– and we had no idea they weren’t finished. I learn what to expect from different people and hold off as needed for that person, but that does require a learning period.

    I think that’s another reason for over-talking, because to us silence means you’er finished– so if you need to think for a moment while you have to floor, you’ll just keep talking while you think to hold the floor, but what you’re saying might just be fluff.

    The thing that’s helped me is to picture my more eloquent but also much quieter best friend. He’s the type where silence is the rule and he only talks if he has something to say that would be an issue if he didn’t bring it up. So I think, how would he say what I’m thinking right now? A lot of the time, he just wouldn’t. And when he would, he would say it in way fewer words than me. I just try to model that.

    1. OP

      I like this! My boyfriend is the opposite of me – very rarely speaks up, even when he has good ideas/the rest of the team is looking for his input/he knows the answer to the question being discussed. He’s gotten feedback from his supervisor telling him to speak up more in meetings. Maybe we should both be trying to emulate each other, haha!

      1. Jazzy Red

        You know…that could be a very good idea. At least, thinking about the way each other is in meetings could remind you how you want to behave in the meeting, even if you’re not trying to “be” the other person.

  15. Editor

    I am an interrupter, too. It is still a challenge for me to tell when some people are done talking, but I’m also guilty of letting my sentences trail into silence while I figure out the rest of what I’m going to say.

    In one office where I worked, where people didn’t interrupt but did cut in quickly at the break to get their points made, I found that kind of reaching forward and raising my hand from the table while keeping my wrist down was a way to show I wanted to say something without actually breaking into the conversation. It helped, but in some offices it would probably be seen as strange.

    In conversation with friends if I get a syllable out to start an interruption and they keep talking, I stop right away. So I start the interruption but don’t continue it, and they seem to tolerate this. I don’t apologize when I stop talking, I just kind of wave my hand to say go on and I shut up. It’s not ideal, but it is better than steamrolling over them or making a big production over apologizing. I do apologize for interrupting when I have interjected something and now I also try to steer the conversation back to where it was when I interrupted. I’ll say something like, “I’m sorry I cut in just then to tell you about X, which I thought applied to this. But you were focusing on Y and the effects of changes on Y. What were you trying to say about that?”

    Also, I do take notes and I try to list questions or comments in the margin before I make them. This has been helpful.

    I have noticed I talk less and interrupt less in well-run meetings with agendas that have been distributed beforehand. I am doing less stream-of-consciousness thinking and more brief commenting on things I’ve thought through and made notes about. When the pace of a meeting is brisk I don’t seem to blather as much.

    I realize I still haven’t conquered the interrupting problem. The thing is, I never intend to come across as rude. But because I talk as often with friends and family where interrupting is standard, it is hard to develop a completely clean approach in the non-interrupting circles because I haven’t left the more competitive talking behind. I did find it amusing last weekend to visit a friend I haven’t seen for a long time only to discover that I was almost shut out of the conversation completely because even my interrupting “skills” weren’t up to wresting control of the conversation away from my friend.

    Now I’m picturing a New Yorker cartoon with people around a table or something and one guy saying, “Hello, I’m Clyde, and I’m an interrupter.”

  16. meijusa

    Excellent suggestions on what to do to mitigate this all around. As a side note, there might be a gender component if the OP is a woman. Studies have shown that women are perceived to be talking more, even when they are talking less than men in a meeting.

  17. Oxford Comma

    So glad I read this post. This is one of my biggest problems. I talk way too much. I dominate the meetings and I know I interrupt. Like Me Too, in my family, if you didn’t interrupt, you’d never get to say anything. There are some really helpful suggestions in here.

  18. Forrest

    When I was more junior, I would always write my questions and comments down and present them at the end if no one else has bought them up. You’d be surprised at how many of the senior people are not that confused.

    1. Lynn

      And sometimes it doesn’t matter if they are. They may be waiting patiently through the minutia about how our chocolate used to have 20% milk content but now it has 18% milk, which requires different tempering equipment etc., waiting until the meeting gets to the higher-level business discussion where their input is needed. They may not “get” how chocolate reacts differently to heat at a chemical level based on milk content, but they don’t have to.

      So someone restating “oh, so darker chocolate has a higher melting point, and our current teapot makers don’t support the higher temperature? Is that what you’re saying?” isn’t actually helping. Often with this kind of thing, the people who need to know, know, and the people who don’t need to know, are waiting for this part to be over.

      1. Kou

        And if they do need to know and won’t take action to get to that point, that’s really their issue.

      2. OP

        Oh goodness. This. I can’t believe I didn’t look at it like this before – of course the majority of the other people in the meetings don’t need me to restate it, they probably don’t care at all as long as I understand it and can tell them “yes, this is probably a good idea” or “no, and here’s why not”.

        I am an idiot. Thank you. :P

  19. TheSnarkyB

    Also, OP, my advice would be to take a lot of notes. Sometimes in my meetings I want to ask things like, “Can we automate that process in the data entry system?”
    And then I realize that we work in an office that does things super slowly and there ain’t a damn system in here that’s getting automated this decade. So… maybe not worth piping up about.
    Keeping a word doc of “big ideas” helps. (And an idea might not seem big to you, but if your organization is extra red tapey… it’s a big project almost regardless)

    1. Ralish

      Yes to this! (Even though it sounds a bit Office-like.) I try to keep a file of ideas that could work later, or for a different client, and so on. It keeps me focused on my job but allows me to realize these ideas might work in the future.

  20. Nontalker

    I need help with the opposite – How to speak up in meetings! I always seem to get ignored or forgotten. I’m very soft spoken and feel uncomfortable dominating a conversation. Sometimes I sit there for two hours without saying a word!

  21. Anonymous

    I am an interrupter and over-talker too ( we need a support group!). It’s not about being rude, it has to do with how I best process information. I have a high information need, the more I know, the better I understand things and the better the solutions/ideas I can come up with. So I ask a lot of questions and people really hate that.

    I don’t have any perfect solution but I have found that being OK with silence helps. If I say my piece and stop talking, and no one else jumps in after me, I no longer respond by starting up talking again which I used to do. If appropriate, I might say something like “That’s all I had…” so people know I’m done.

    I think a lot of the tips here are very helpful but overall, I think you just need to be mindful of it. If you have a pad with you, make a checkmark each time you speak up. That can help give you a realistic picture of how often you are talking.

    The bottom line is that you have feedback from your manager to pipe down :) So you need to do that. At another job, your communication style might be fine, but it’s not a fit for wher eyou are now. The easiest thing to jettison, as others have said, is the re-stating things for other people who might not understand. That’s not your job, so that should be an easy one to cross off the list. (If it’s not and you find yourself still doing it, figure out why you feel you need to fill that role).

  22. Anon

    There is some really great advice here! I really agree with Alison’s advice to stop summarizing what is said in meetings, I think that will help the OP a lot.

    I often speak without a filter, and I’ve been making an effort in recent years to control what comes out of my mouth. The advice here obviously overlaps, but does anyone have any similar tips for what has worked for them?

    1. OP

      Ha, I also don’t have a filter, which considering I both deal with confidential information and have “informing others” in my job description has caused problems. A big problem for a while was me repeating office gossip, particularly to new employees. My boss told me to remember that “yes, they are probably going to hear it anyway, but you don’t want them to have heard it from you.” That has helped me a lot :)

  23. Stephanie

    I do improv as a hobby and it’s actually been great for exactly this. They make you do a lot of exercises where you have to wait before speaking or responding. I don’t see myself as the next Tina Fey, but it has been great for work situations in forcing me to listen before I respond. I’m a talker myself.

    I had a similar issue with a supervisor who said I asked too many questions. He then made me document every time I DIDN’T ask a question and the steps I took to not ask it. Yeah, that’s not intuitive at all, but it was helpful in being a bit resourceful.

  24. Camellia

    When I get excited I also get physically animated. What I do to remind myself to not talk (when appropriate) is that I put my non-note-taking hand under my thigh and pin it to the chair. If I can’t wave my hands around it stops that initial impulse to speak.

    Something else I do is lean my elbow on the table or on the arm of the chair, prop my chin on my thumb, and curl my index finger over my lips – literally a ‘be quiet’ to myself.

    1. clobbered

      This is too funny – I was going to mention that sitting on your hands helps, but I thought it was too weird to suggest. Now I have proof it really does work for other people!

  25. TheSnarkyB

    OP, another thing (especially true for women, I’ve found) is that it’s helpful to practice saying all of what you mean and only what you mean. In an English class in high school (at an all girl’s school), our class got a lecture about how women come across (due to sexism/gender bias, not anything we were doing wrong). Saying things like “Like” are a little more obvious, but I find that I apologize for speaking up even while i”m making a good point. Consider:

    “Well, I was just gonna say that Jane might be on the board of that organization so I don’t know, maybe she could talk to them about this too? I mean… maybe not but we could try I guess?
    “I believe Jane sits on that board. Have you asked her if she is utilizing that connection?”

    1. T

      That’s great advice! I think also, as women, we might have a tenancy to soften our opinions by forming them tentatively (example A) instead of direct statement (example B) so as to not seem too abrupt. That was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to in a mostly male workplace – speaking in shorter and more direct sentences when expressing my opinion.

      1. Stephanie

        With women, inflection’s big as well, such as ending a statement with a question and/or a higher pitch. I’m guilty of this from time to time and had to work to lessen it, especially in interviews.

    2. Natalie

      I’ve found age/inexperience can magnify that tendency, too. I’ve been sitting on an urban planning committee with a lot of older men who’ve been active in local urban planning stuff for decades, and I’m the youngest person, the least experienced, and often the only woman. Without even thinking about it, I used to preface almost everything I said with a minimizing phrase – i.e. “This isn’t my area of expertise, but [suggestion]”. It’s really hard to stop doing that, but I haven’t noticed any difference in how my suggestions are received.

      1. fposte

        I’ve heard that called “prefacing behavior” in teaching, and it’s particularly common in women. To me it reads like a submissive “Don’t blame me if I’m wrong” at the same time as it it takes up time, so I’m doubly opposed.

        1. Good_Intentions

          Fposte:

          While I agree with your assessment that “prefacing” behavior is more common in women, I have a different take on the motivation behind such soft pedaling of ideas.

          Here’s my argument: Women are taught to get along, be cooperative and build consensus with others. Therefore, prefacing a statement with “this isn’t my area of expertise” is a great way to offer criticism of a concept without being perceived as confrontational or rude. It also heads off a worst-case scenario of a defensive person responding to constructive feedback with a “what the hell makes you an expert on this.”

          The above statement is just my view of the “prefacing” behavior.

          1. fposte

            I think it’s true that women are socialized to soften their approaches, but there are ways to do it that aren’t nearly as self-erasing, so I do think it’s significant–and is read as significant–when this particular way of softening is used.

  26. The Other Dawn

    I agree with Alison, especially the part about not interrupting people. I cannot tell you how much it pisses me off when someone interrupts. I don’t mean the person who interrupts because there’s an important call or wants to interject with a question. I mean the person who asks a question, I start to answer, and then that person interrupts with another question. Or the person who has to constantly interrupt with their thoughts during a meeting. It implies they don’t really care about what others have to say or think what they have to say is more important.

  27. TL

    If you’re a loud speaker, speak quieter.
    That helped me a lot – I tend to speak really quietly for the first few words in group situations/meetings and if no one hears my first syllable/talks over me w/o noticing, my brain catches up to my mouth and does the “is this really necessary? If so, wait until they’re done.”

    It is surprisingly helpful.
    (of course, when you do speak up, make sure you change volumes once you have everyone’s attention.)

  28. Steph

    Overall, I’d suggest a class on facilitation – I think that might help you with meeting roles & responsibilities,and becoming more sensitive to how you can assist in achieving real outcomes from a meeting.

    To the original point on the “Restating” or “Clarifying” what was just said, I would suggest that the OP consider her/his tone and introduction to the “restating.”

    It might not be that you need to talk less – it might be that you need to change how you’re approaching what you’re saying. I mention that because of the comment about other people not understanding the IT stuff, and the “know it all.”

    Does it really matter to your work that participants don’t understand what’s being discussed? If you understand what’s being discussed, and are not in a role where you’re responsible for other people understanding the material being presented, assume that everyone else understands. If they don’t, and they don’t speak up, that’s on them (and side bar: seriously, we’re all adults. If you don’t understand something, ask). However, my suggest to you in the event that your work is going to be influenced by the other participants not understanding, ask questions like, “Bob, how does this functionality influence XYZ that we have to do?”

    Some additional food for thought….

    I facilitate a lot of meetings as the project PM, and I usually recap each major block of conversation, especially if there’s an action item or a decision reached. At a lull in the conversation, I approach this by starting with “I want to make sure that I understood what we just said/agreed to/decided. Blah, Blah, XYZ.” I conclude by asking “What did I miss here?” I express humility in these statements – “I want to make sure that *I* understand” and “What did I miss?” Maybe this would help your approach?

    Note, the trick is to only do this when it’s a major block of conversation — one which involves decisions, action items, or key pieces of information (cliff notes) that participants need to takeaway. I do this in my role as the PM/ facilitator – it would be weird if I did this as a meeting participant with no experience (real and/or perceived) in a particular topic area and just “restated” as I thought that everyone else didn’t understand whatever was being discussed. I also think that it’s appropriate, at the end of a meeting, to review the decision points, and action items/owners that came out of the meeting. The person facilitating the meeting should do that – but really, someone should if no one else does it. That might be an alternative opportunity for OP to “restate” key points without being annoying to other participants, and helpful in terms of being action oriented, and providing structure to the meeting.

    And PS – You must be good at your job and have a good manager. Managers don’t invest this kind of time/feedback in someone who isn’t worth it! Kudos to you for being mature about this!

  29. Girasol

    Slightly off topic: I read an article (wish I could recall where) that said that when one is the only woman in a meeting of men and they are not reading her signals – that is, she’s shut out of the conversation because there’s no break for her to get a word in – that it’s necessary and advisable for her to interrupt. I’m still mulling that over. Really? Does that improve matters or make them worse?

    1. Kou

      How is everyone else getting a word in? Is the implication that a woman just feels differently and perceives breaking in without a lull or a prompt is “interrupting” even if that’s what everyone else is doing? Because, yes, follow the dialogue patterns of your environment as necessary.

      This scenario is strange to me, though, the idea that women will just sit there and try to subtly indicate their desire to speak with body language and hope someone throws them an opportunity– rather than just, you know, breaking in. I know a lot of people are like that but, 1) I don’t really associate it as a feminine trait, and 2) the idea of someone who sits there and doesn’t let themselves be heard when they need to because they require an opening to be presented to them is just, well, off. That’s a kind of behavior I can’t imaging working for them in life overall, not just business.

  30. The Other Dawn

    I tend to be an over explainer. I assume that if I fix a problem, the person wants to know how I did it when all they really care about is that it’s fixed. It’s been really hard to break myself of this, I haven’t completely, but I just think to myself, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Like Dragnet. That kind of curbs my tendency to run on about something.

    I know the OP didn’t say email is a problem, but I’m an over explainer when it comes to email also and I constantly proof read and revise as I go along to make sure I’m not going on and on.

    1. The gold digger

      I want to explain because I want to be appreciated for all the work that went into it. Putting together a new slide in powerpoint isn’t just a five-minute project, you know!

      But I know nobody cares so I need to just shut up.

      But I really really don’t appreciate it when my boss asks me to throw in five new slides into a presentation at 3:56 on Friday afternoon when I was going to leave at 4:14. Especially when we have been talking about this presentation for a week.

    2. OP

      Now I’m wondering if email actually IS a problem. I doubt it, since when I can sit and proofread I tend to be much clearer and more concise, but…I think I’m gonna pay attention to that now, just in case.

  31. Waiting Patiently

    If you’re reiterating to understand something is one thing. However, if you’re interrupting people, imo, it’s a sign of deficiency in listening skills not necessarily about talking to much.

    I have a co-worker like this and I think she is aware of it and tries, but you can tell she isn’t necessarily interested or at least hearing anything you are saying but rather waiting for an opportunity to jump in and tell you what ‘she knows’–and it’s usually irrelevant to the greater conversation. For instance most everyone make small connections to a story someone is sharing, most people will wait and decide if it’s worth sharing– most times she’ll interrupt and then will just start telling her story.

    We were at a training a few weeks ago and the presenter, as a little ice-breaker, starting saying random acronyms and asking us if we knew what it meant , at first everyone was stumped but once we put the acronyms into context (common phrases we use in our work environment)–the tension settled in the room. Well for her this had become a challenge while for the majority we just relaxed as was the purpose of the ice-breaker. It wasn’t to test what we know. After the last acronym, she spouted off the last phrase, grab her cup, tilted her head back taking a long sip, and adjusted herself upright in her chair. But that’s characteristic of her so…

  32. Bonnie

    To become someone who talks less I have tried to become someone who listens better. By listening better I mean really trying to understand what the other person means instead of just hearing what they are saying which those of us who interrupt often do.

    Here is a tip that I did not see above. Every time you have the urge to repeat, summarize or rephrase what was just said. Ask a question instead. If you can’t come up with a question, then the information probably doesn’t need to be repeated. If you think your co-workers don’t understand, then ask a question that allows the speaker to clarify their point instead of trying to do it for them. Just trying to think up the question that will help your co-workers without summarizing what was said will probably also slow you down enough to help with the interrupting.

    Also be weary of jumping in to speak whenever there is silence. Some people need to process what they hear. But if you are repeating what was said it actually keeps them from processing the information because they are listening to you. People learn differently if you are an aural learner you learn by hearing things said to you (many talkers are aural learners). Others can’t process aural information as quickly as you and need moment to get what was said straight in their mind. What you think of as helping (restating the information) is actually hindering their learning process.

    1. Kerr

      “Others can’t process aural information as quickly as you and need moment to get what was said straight in their mind. What you think of as helping (restating the information) is actually hindering their learning process.”

      Yes – this! I do not process spoken words as well as written, and it usually takes me a few moments to consider what I’ve just heard (or read), and what I want to say. Unfortunately, it often happens that by the time I’ve collected my thoughts, everyone else has zoomed on! Or I’ll briefly pause to regroup and breathe, and a quicker person grabs the conversation and runs with it.

      That said, while I’m an introvert, and generally very quiet, I’ve also been known to interrupt and finish people’s sentences; I’m not always a great listener. Go figure. (Yes, I also come from a family where we habitually interrupt each other.) It’s something I’m working on, too. Good luck, OP!

  33. Anonymous

    I used to work with someone who was an interrupter. It was so hard talking with her because it felt like a competition to get a word in edgewise!

  34. Cassie

    I would suggest taking notes or jotting down thoughts during the meeting. I usually never talk in staff meetings. Well, they aren’t really meetings, it’s more like the manager stands there and talks about how busy she is. In meetings w/ external people, I do speak up if there’s an issue that I can clarify or offer a suggestion. I mean, there’s a reason I’m in the meeting, right?

    Generally, I am pretty laconic, unless it’s something I’m passionate about or if there’s something that I know a lot about (like certain topics at work) – then I can be a bit of a know-it-all, but I try to curb that at work. I also tend to over-explain and I know my boss (and others like him) will just tune me out if I do that.

    But anyway – take notes. Or just write down questions or answers that pop into your head. The speaker may address something that you were about to say.

  35. Cheryl

    As someone who works in a call center, my number one pet peeve is the folks that call in for help and then talk over me. So for those of you chomping at the bit to say your piece, did you even hear what the last person said or were you so busy formulating how you were going to respond that the words went in one ear and out the other? In my opinion, thanks to technology the art of having a conversation is rapidly going out the window!

    1. The Other Dawn

      I used to have a manager like this. I could tell when I was talking to him that he was preparing in his mind what he was going to say, rather than listening. I would often have to repeat myself. Sometimes I left the conversation feeling like I didn’t get to say everything I needed to say.

  36. Gilbey

    “because I can see that several of my coworkers, who are all senior to me, older than me, and by their own admission not very tech-savy, are getting lost”

    Regardless if they have stated they don’t know about “X” that is not necessarily an invitation to barge in and explain it. You post does not indicate they are they actually asking you to explain it.

    You are assuming you need to because they said they don’t know about “X” or in your interpretation, they look lost. They might resent how you are going about explaining the stuff to them especially when it is a meeting setting with other people around. Does it make them look dumb?

    Maybe they need to just go back to their desks after the meeting and figure stuff out for themselves. You need to let them decide how they want to learn and decipher the information. If they come to you later and say can you help me with this? Then go for it.

    And my question even more then that is, are you really doing it to help them, sincerely, or are you doing it because you like “knowing more” than others? Here you are early in the start of your working life and wow I know this stuff and they don’t.
    Just something to think about…. ( not saying you are doing this )

    I work with a younger girl (as you are making age distinctions in your post) and if she had it her way, she’d be running the whole show because no one knows anything but her. We all apparently fell off the turnip truck yesterday, have had no experience anything. Very annoying. What I know is she does not have the savvy to know when keep her mouth shut, which is often a much more important trait then knowledge. ( not pointing this statement to the OP)

    Remember, that most people will probably not remember what you know, but will remember that you interrupted and that you believe you know everything. Success is not always just the stuff you do but how you carry yourself as well.

    You truly sound like you want to change this behavior. It shows a great character that you see this.

    1. Anonymous

      And this is *usually* where knowledge without the wisdom to apply it* usually*sheds its light on the know it all types. Sometimes I sit back and watch. I hate to jeopardize real work to prove a point– but I let ’em dive in far enough and either swim or tread water until I decide to support.

    2. OP

      I hope I am not coming across the way your co-worker is, but I suspect that sometimes I am. (Hopefully not often.) Seeing everyone’s stories and advice on here has been uncomfortably eye-opening but I think it will help.

  37. Jen

    This is such a useful thread! I just got my first professional job and I’m worried about not understanding office conventions. Now I know – keep notes, don’t interrupt, speak up if you really have to (and I love the ‘tally’ idea as a fellow quiet person), understand that people process information differently and keep track of your ideas even if they are not instantly applicable or realistic. Brilliant!

    This does remind me of university seminar etiquette, where everyone would hate the one loud person with all the opinions – but also be afraid to share their own. I would always try to speak up once but I find it is mainly a lack of confidence in what I want to say that holds me back.

  38. Autumn

    Thank you thank you thank you! This topic is exactly what I needed to read! My manager has never brought it up, but I am well aware that I over talk and occasionally interrupt (not on purpose, but I, too, get eager to share ideas & grew up in a big family of talkers) – I have been really trying not to do either, but they are hard habits to break. Thank you Allison & commenters for all of the advice!!

  39. Vicki

    I also have a tendency to repeat/rephrase to solidify the idea or make sure I understand it. I also tend to ask clarifying questions, sometimes for myself and sometimes to ensure that everyone is on the same page.

    Then one manager (the only one out of 25 managers across many years and jobs) told me to stop. OK. In his meetings, I forced myself to shut up.

    And then, one day, in a 1:1 he said there was a meeting coming up and he would appreciate it if I would pay attention to whether the other people seemed to “get it” and would I please ask questions if they didn’t seem to so everyone would be up to speed.

    I’m afraid that my response was along the lines of “you have got to be joking”.

  40. Anonymous

    To the OP: Thank you for recognizing that interrupting other people is an issue for you and taking steps to stop doing it. As someone who falls on the introverted side of the scale, if I’m interrupted, it makes me completely lose my train of thought, and it’s not easy for me to get back on track and finish what I was saying.

    Also, interrupting others can give the impression that you don’t find their input valuable or interesting and that your opinions are the only ones that matter. I’m not saying you feel this way; I’m just mentioning that this is often how “interruptors” are perceived.

    There have been many good comments on this thread. I hope you can find a method that works for you. You sound passionate about your job, but constantly interrupting others can really come back to bite you in the rear in the long run.

  41. Greatideas

    I just wish there were a way to send this to my boss and not get burned for it. Or does anyone have ideas for when your boss does the interrupting constantly?

  42. Sara

    Oh my gosh, I do this. It’s so strange because as a child and teenager I would never speak up in class – then some switch got flipped and I am such a talker, veering close to know it all status sometimes I’m sure! I really like the idea about keeping notes of ideas as they pop into your head – I do often feel like I have to share my ideas immediately! I’ve never had anyone say anything about it to me, though – that sounds so tough.

  43. eating worms

    I’m like you – I used to talk more than my fair share in group spaces, especially tutorials where I was often the first to talk cos there’d be these long silences otherwise, and I was really enthusiastic about the subjects – and then be wracked with guilt afterwards. My tactic for dealing with it and slowing it all down is to always count to three before saying anything in a group space, which gives me a beat to consider whether the overall conversation/vibe will be improved significantly by what I have to say, or to remember how I often feel at the end of the day when I’m replaying everything I’ve said and wincing about over-talking/saying the wrong thing. I also try to remember that I am not solely responsible for filling silence and to just let it happen, which feels really awkward to begin with. The concrete act of counting to three helps to slow me down and has, over time, trained me to be naturally less over-talky in work/uni settings, so I don’t have to do it as much anymore. Good luck :)

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