How To Know If You Talk Too Much


Yes is the answer, but the clue is in the noun… Unfortunately many people fail to recognise the difference between a conversation and a monologue. I recently read an article on Harvard Business Review and it struck a chord. Time is the most precious of commodities, so naturally we should respect it – put simply, the less we talk the more time we and those we talk to will have. But the purpose of this article is not to limit conversation, more to promote a healthy self-awareness to ensure that our messages are relevant and concise, and therefore heard and respected.

Even before reading the subject article I had started to notice people tuning out when I talk for just a little too long (my colleagues, wife, child, friends), and instead of stopping to re-engage, my reaction is to ramble some more. I have tried to improve in this area but there is much work I still need to do.

No matter how much you or I like the sound of our own voices and no matter how much we think our words are pearls of wisdom, others simply don’t. I have grown to understand that there is a direct correlation; the more I think and plan before I talk, the more relevant and concise my words are and the more impact my words have.


  • Plan your conversation: (What) what do you want to discuss, (Why) what is the background / context to the discussion and (What) what do you want to take away from the discussion.
  • Be relevant, concise and engaging: think about whether the person you are talking to actually wants to listen to what you have to say. If they don’t then you are talking to the wrong person and you should simply ask them to help direct you to the relevant person. You might find they do simply because you haven’t wasted their time! Once you have the attention of the right person, make sure you articulate your message as concisely as possible – remember, less is more. And finally, don’t forget this is a conversation not a monologue so engage your counterpart with some relevant questions. After all, you’ve made time to converse with this person because you feel they can add value.
  • Be self-aware and pick-up on others signals: if you feel you have gone on too long, chances are you have so stop (naturally). The traffic light rules in the subject article are a great way to keep track of where your conversation is heading. But timing is only part of the winning formula – be sensitive to your audience, the signals are there you just have to tune in. If someone is trying to interrupt you, they check their phone, fidget with papers – they are likely not listening so stop, or ask a question to re-engage them.
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Traffic Light Rules:
‘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. Yes, there’s an occasional time you want to run that red light and keep talking, but the vast majority of the time, you’d better stop or you’re in danger.’


Remember your time and others’ is precious so make sure you know what you want to say and who you need to say it to. This will make for shorter conversations that generate more meaningful outcomes.