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The world is filled with overtalkers, says journalist Daniel Lyons. They tend to overshare on a particular point of their interest, interrupt others and talk more than they should in conversations. You run into them all the time at work. But he suggests you look in the mirror because you might be an overtalker – most of us are.

“It’s not entirely our fault. We live in a world that doesn’t just encourage overtalking but practically demands it, where success is measured by how much attention we can attract,” he writes in STFU: The Power of Keeping Your Mouth Shut in an Endlessly Noisy World.

Interrupting others can be a particularly annoying trait. It’s associated with men, but not exclusive to them: One study of tech meetings found the average man interrupting twice as often as a woman. Executive coach Madeleine Homan Blanchard says it can be triggered by excitement, the need to get a word in edgewise in a fast-paced environment, obliviousness to other people or the desire to shut other people down.

If you sense – or know – you are an interrupter, she recommends paying attention to the behaviour and the impact on others. Watch for the sparks that set you off.

“Practise what you might do the next time a spark presents itself in a safe environment. Specifically for interrupting, it might be as simple as putting your hand over your mouth. If managing your energy is a problem, try doing something with your hands – knit, draw, needlepoint – anything that might help you to stay present. If you often interrupt because you get excited about an idea, always have a notebook on hand so you can make a note and not worry about forgetting your question or brilliant idea,” she writes on Blanchard LeaderChat, a forum to discuss leadership and management issues.

She encourages you to share your desire to change with colleagues if the environment is sufficiently safe for that. Keep track of your progress and be kind to yourself when you stumble. “Before long, you will notice you have made a change. Don’t let your guard down, though. Stay alert to what might cause a relapse,” she says.

Mr. Lyons says speaking with intention – not just blurting things out – will make you more likeable, more creative and more powerful. Studies show people who talk less are more likely to get promoted at work and likely to prevail in negotiations.

He developed a five-point approach to curb a tendency to overtalk:

  • When possible, say nothing: “You will be shocked by how many good chances there are. Pretend words are money, and spend them wisely,” he writes.
  • Master the power of the pause: Take a deep breath after you have made a point, pause for a few seconds, and give the other person a chance to process what has been said before you say more. Perhaps they want to respond – should respond – but just need the opportunity.
  • Quit social media: This seems irrelevant but he argues social media is a cousin of overtalking in person, as we rush to share our opinions. We often turn to social media to soothe ourselves but in fact it increases our anxiety. If you can’t quit, dial it back – the amount of time on social media and your contributions, even likes.
  • Seek out silence: “Detach. Unplug. Spend time without your phone, don’t talk, don’t read, don’t watch, don’t listen,” he urges. Giving your brain a rest can kick-start your creativity and make you healthier and more productive.
  • Learn how to listen: This is difficult work – listening intently to others and blocking out everything else, including your own thoughts. It allows others to feel fully heard.

“I can’t always maintain this discipline, but when I do, the results are magical. I feel calmer, less anxious, and more in control, which makes me less likely to overtalk. It’s a positive feedback loop. The less I talk, the less I talk,” Mr. Lyons writes. And others – colleagues and family – appreciate it.

Quick hits

  • The best tactic for handling chatty co-workers, according to a survey, is listening a bit and then saying you have something to do. The next best is to avoid crossing paths with them. Also popular: Limit responses to one word, keep up the task you have been doing while they are talking to send a signal you’re busy, and avoid eye contact.
  • When starting a new job, avoid comparing your old company to your new company, advises executive recruiter Gerald Walsh. Ask good questions and listen more than you talk. Invite your new colleagues to lunch or coffee to learn about their jobs.
  • Opportunity doesn’t just fall into your lap. Tell people what you want in your career and they can help you achieve it, says Silicon Valley executive Deb Liu. Don’t expect them to read your mind.
  • When you need to learn quickly, learn from others, observes Atomic Habits author James Clear. When you need to learn deeply, learn from experience.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston-based writer specializing in management issues. He, along with Sheelagh Whittaker, former CEO of both EDS Canada and Cancom, are the authors of When Harvey Didn’t Meet Sheelagh: Emails on Leadership.

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