Advice To A Young Executive Series
I appreciate your story about the “volume talkers” at work. Yes, they are hard to manage and they can contribute to bad decisions being made. I feel your pain. They are the ones who talk a lot in group meetings or one-on-one in order to control the situation. The problem is that they limit other ideas. People often agree with their decisions because it takes too much energy to break into the conversation or debate with them.
Thousands of years ago, if we wanted to control a person, we hit them over the head. While that is tempting to do at work with some people, we can’t. So we control people by how we express ideas, and negative and positive emotions. The person who never stops talking may have a high need to control others by controlling the content, mood, and decision.
There are other reasons why someone may dominate conversations. First, some people have a limited ability in areas of their brain that enable us to read and interpret social situations, and monitor our behavior. Second, other people enjoy generating ideas at high speeds so much that their minds create a chemical messenger that gives them a positive feeling when doing so. Third, some coworkers believe that their ideas are always superior to others. Fourth, some people have slow mental processing speed and can’t keep up with complex interactions in conversations (words, facial expressions, body language, feelings, decisions, content, etc.) so they talk a lot to slow down the content they need to track.
Because there are so many reasons why a person may dominate conversations, the key is not to ask why but to control the process in groups to assure everyone is heard. You should also give helpful feedback to the person one-on-one. People avoid letting others know they talk too much because it is an uncomfortable thing to do. However, I would rather have an initial feeling of discomfort than to sit through hours of listening to someone repeat themselves. Let the person know, “When you dominate the conversation, it makes me feel as if my opinions and ideas don’t matter. I want to have a two way conversation with you so we are both heard. Let’s agree to balance our listening and talking with each other in the future.”
This feedback lets the person know how their conversation style impacts you and what you want changed. The volume talkers have difficulty changing so expect them to relapse often, and anticipate having to give feedback again and again.
About Advice To A Young Executive Series
The Advice To A Young Executive series are emails with a former business school student of mine as she progresses in her corporate career. When Hannah started her new job as a manager of a large project portfolio for an international corporation, she suggested that I publish my emails to her starting April 2012 so other young graduates and managers can learn from our exchange of ideas and experiences.
In order to keep Hannah’s and her company’s identity confidential, we decided not to publish her emails to me so she feels comfortable sharing details about her experience. We also changed her name. Hannah was a gifted student in my organization behavior class and is a young manager who is always thinking about what’s possible to create in the world.