Do you know someone who likes nothing more than the sound of his or her own voice? When that person arrives at a party, there’s often a collective realization. After a few exchanged glances, everyone takes a deep breath and buckles their seatbelt, as the talkaholic has arrived.
It’s not that the talkaholic has bad intentions; in fact, in some cases, their excessive talking is considered more of a mental health concern than a deliberate choice or quirk. Regardless, talkaholics tend to strain social situations in uncomfortable ways.
In this article, I will discuss what it means to talk less, explain the benefits of doing so, and suggest valuable tips for how to talk less and listen more.
When it comes to talking, quality is more important than quantity
The motive behind prompting over-sharers to talk less is not to suppress them. It’s to encourage thoughtful, balanced communication.
Anthony Liccione, poet, and author, once said, “A fool is made more of a fool when their mouth is more open than their mind.”
In other words, it’s easy for a person to appear careless and imprudent when speaking, instead of listening, is their primary concern.
Sharing your thoughts with the world is a good and necessary act. You have a unique perspective that no one else can emulate. However, it’s important to recognize that the thoughts of others are just as important as your own.
Think of it this way: There’s only so much space in a conversation. The more you express, the less someone else gets to. Your decision to distribute the “airtime” (or not) has the power to make someone else feel heard and understood or silenced and overlooked.
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Why talking less is important
Not only does talking less communicate respect for others, but it also helps avoid conflict in relationships. Once you’ve spoken a thought into existence, you cannot retract it. You might say something you don’t quite mean or reveal information you probably shouldn’t have. No matter what, you will have to face the consequences of your words.
Talking less also fosters humility. It allows you to gain perspective and exposure to new ideas. It’s unlikely that anyone knows everything there is to know about a topic.
Even if you believe you’re an expert in some way, it can be enlightening to take a step back and hear what others have to contribute.
Tips for talking less and listening more
If you wish to talk less but don’t know where to start, check out the tips below. Even the slightest mindset shifts can significantly improve your self-control and ability to make space for others in conversation.
1. Reflect on your desire to speak
Before simply resolving to talk less, take a quiet moment to reflect on your desire to speak as often as you do.
Ask yourself, “What are my intentions? Why do I feel I must share this information?”
You may discover some things about yourself that you didn’t previously know. For example, you might learn that your urge to talk excessively comes from one of the following sources:
- Low self-esteem.
In some cases, talking too much may also be symptomatic of a mental disorder. In this case, specialized assistance from a psychologist could be necessary for behavioral change.
Talking too much is also a sign that someone lacks self-awareness, as discussed in this article.
2. Evaluate your thoughts before speaking
Ever heard of the idea that less is more? That’s often true when it comes to words. When you make a habit of being concise, people tend to listen. Why? Because for you, every word carries weight.
Evaluating your thoughts before speaking is one of the best ways to ensure you say exactly what you mean. It also prevents you from oversharing. When you feel the urge to chime in during a conversation, ask yourself these questions first:
- What is the occasion?
- Is what I’d like to say appropriate to express on this occasion?
- What is my relationship with the person I’m speaking to?
- What do I know about their beliefs, experiences, and values?
- Would it be sensible for me to share what I’d like to say with this person at this time?
- What is motivating me to share this piece of information?
- Am I informed enough to share about this topic?
- Is what I’m about to say redundant? Has someone already said it?
- What information do I want to remain private?
Remember, you can always share more later. Don’t be afraid to omit information if you’re on the fence about divulging it.
3. Be inquisitive
Conversations should be balanced, so if you notice yourself talking too much, consider switching gears and asking a question. Asking questions shows you care about the thoughts and experiences of others instead of just your own.
I didn’t recognize the importance of being inquisitive until after I graduated college. Suddenly, developing relationships wasn’t as easy. I realized I had less in common with people in the “adult world,” so I coped with this awkwardness by talking…a lot.
The problem with this approach was that I left social engagements feeling dissatisfied. I hadn’t truly connected with people; I had spewed my words upon them. Eventually, I learned it was possible to find points of similarity with others; I just had to keep digging.
Before every outing, I began formulating a couple of questions I genuinely wanted answers to. This practice completely transformed the way I navigated social events, and the result was stunning. Being inquisitive allowed me to form deeper bonds with people than I had expected.
If the idea of developing thoughtful questions sounds intimidating or impossible to you, you’re in luck! There’s an entire archive of questions that already exists for your use. Explore the following platforms to find questions you like:
- Card decks like We're Not Really Strangers or Let's Get Deep.
- Conversation starter apps like Party Q's or Gather.
- Websites or blogs (I personally love this list from the New York Times).
I revisit these platforms time and time again to take note of fresh questions, and I’m always impressed by what I find.
4. Practice active listening
One of the most effective ways to eliminate a bad habit is to replace it with a better one. Instead of expending all your energy talking, try active listening instead.
Active listening requires a person’s full attention as well as intent to understand the speaker. There are several ways to show someone you are engaged in a conversation:
- Make eye contact.
- Lean in.
- Smile or nod.
- Ask clarifying questions.
- Repeat what you’ve just heard.
- Avoid interrupting.
If your focus is set on listening actively during a conversation, you will feel less inclined to talk. Practicing active listening on a regular basis can gradually nudge any relationship into a deeper and more authentic place.
Active listening is a big part of how to be a better listener, as discussed in this article.
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Sharing your thoughts is a crucial part of participating in the world and relating with others. However, it’s important to give people the same amount of conversational space as you might expect. Deciding to withhold information may feel strange at first, but with time, it’s likely you’ll find it as natural as breathing.
Do you consider yourself to be a talker? Or do you prefer to analyze what others are saying? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!