We humans have a hunger to be listened to—and the very process of talking about ourselves releases the feel-good hormone, dopamine. So, all in all, it’s no surprise that many of us blab on from time to time. (Tweet it!)
But how do we know when we’re talking too much? Marc Goulston M.D., a business psychiatrist and author of Just Listen, shared a technique he learned from Marty Nemko of San Francisco’s NPR affiliate. It’s called the Traffic Light Rule:
“In the first 20 seconds of talking, your light is green: your listener is liking you, as long as your statement is relevant to the conversation and hopefully in service of the other person. But…the light turns yellow for the next 20 seconds—now the risk is increasing that the other person is beginning to lose interest or think you’re long-winded. At the 40-second mark, your light is red.”
But take note: even 20 seconds of talking can be a turn-off if a speaker doesn’t include the other person in the conversation. Don’t filibuster: Ask questions, try to build on what they say, and look for ways to include them in the conversation. Aim for “a genuine dialogue instead of a diatribe.” Consider using your first 20 seconds to create enough interest that the other person asks you follow up questions. Have a story you want to share? Practice telling it in your mind until you have it crisp and focused.
Have you ever timed your average talk time? Does it exceed 20 seconds? Do you find yourself starting to lose interest after someone else speaks for 20 seconds? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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