Nobody likes a rambler. Sure, it feels good to talk about yourself, but other people won’t find it nearly as interesting as you think. You can avoid ruining a good conversation by keeping a simple rule in mind.
Picture: John Morton
When you talk to someone, their brain normally goes through a few simple stages in the listening process. They might be interested in listening at first, but their attention will quickly dissolve into complete disinterest. Mark Goulston at the Harvard Business Review explains a method used by radio host Marty Nemko 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 unless you are an extremely gifted raconteur, people who talk for more than roughly half minute at a time are boring and often perceived as too chatty. So 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.
Sometimes you have to run that red light to get your point across, but most of the time you’re better off stopping yourself. Remember, a good conversation is like a tennis match with a lot of back and forth. So when you start talking about something — especially yourself — notice how long you take to get your thoughts out. Could you be getting the same point across with fewer words? Probably. If you’re a compulsive rambler, it will take more than the traffic light rule to stop yourself, but it’s definitely a good rule of thumb to start out with.
How to Know If You Talk Too Much [Harvard Business Review]