November 2, 2010

How to Stop Talking Too Much

Why, why, why do we do it? Why do we open our mouths, insert one or both feet and continue talking?

What makes us talk too much, say the wrong things and then keep talking in a desperate attempt to distract attention from whatever awful thing we just said?

More to the point, why do we do this in job interviews?

Of course, an obvious answer is that we over-talk out of nervousness. When you’re uncomfortable in a business or social setting, your default button may be set to “chatter.”

That’s a more attractive answer than the alternative, which is that some people over-talk out of a conviction that their thoughts are more interesting than anyone else’s, and they have the right – no, the obligation – to jabber on.

And then there are the poor souls who have some sort of mental health condition that sparks the endless monologues. If you fall into this category, you already know the ups and downs of medication and therapy, but at least you have the advantage of self-awareness. In an interview, when all else fails, you can say in as charming a manner as possible, “I’m a bit of a chatterer, but all you have to do is wave to get my attention.” It’s not ideal, but some managers will be able to deal with it, as long as your other work skills are up to snuff.

The same trick might work for nervous Nellies, provided they have enough insight to realize they’ve got the running-on problem. The arrogant idiots? Not so much – you can’t smile charmingly, excuse yourself for being an ass and keep on doing what you were doing.

How do you know which category you fall into? About the only good method that I’ve found is to ask a brutally honest friend for the feedback. If that personality type is in short supply in your circle, you’ll have to move on to a paid professional. Get a taped interview done by a career counselor and then watch how you answer questions like “Tell me about yourself,” which are the classic setups for motor-mouths.

Just don’t ignore the situation altogether. If you’re talking too much, you really are harming your employment opportunities and that’s just silly. After all, if the interviewer can’t get a word in edgewise, how will he or she be able to say, “You’re hired”?

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