Sustaining the United Methodist Witness

Five Signs You Are a Leader Who Talks Too Much

Aug 2, 2016

Healthy conversations should be a two-way street.  Science tells us that we spend 60 percent of our conversations talking about ourselves.  Unfortunately, leaders can talk too much, not necessarily by monopolizing conversations, but by giving too many answers.  How do you know if you are a leader who talks too much? What can you do to stop?
Consider these indicators:

  • You do more than half the talking in staff meetings.  If you do, your staff may feel the meeting is all about you rather than about the team.
  • Staff and volunteers come to you for answers more often than to offer solutions.  This can indicate an unhealthy dependence on you to solve their problems.
  • You tend to rush conversations with others.  If you are a quick thinker and get frustrated with time wasters, you will struggle with this one.
  • Silence in a conversation really, really bothers you.  Action biased leaders often view silence as another time waster.
  • While another person is talking, you are framing your response.  It is easy to slip into this one.  When you do, you miss half of what the other person is saying.

Three suggested solutions:

  1. Practice the art of the (W.A.I.T.)
    The (W.A.I.T.) is an acronym for this question, “Why Am I Talking?”  In meetings and conversations with others when you sense you may be dominating, mentally ask yourself this question.  I have found it assists me to listen carefully and talk less.
  2. Use the (A.W.E.) question
    In Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, Stanier calls the A.W.E. question the best coaching question in the world.  It stands for, “And What Else?”  When you think a conversation has come to the end, Stanier suggests asking this question 3 - 5 times to get everything from the other person.
  3. Ask “What Do You Think?”
    This question is useful when you sense someone wants you to solve their problem.  You may immediately know the answer, but by answering it you may foster an unhealthy dependency.  Often when I use this question with a staff person, they come up with their own solution.  The result?  They buy into their solution.  They learn to think for themselves.

Scripture often reminds us to listen and talk less.
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” – James 1:19(NLT).
“Answering before listening is both stupid and rude” – Proverbs 18:13(The Message).