What’s the Problem?
I’ve gotten feedback from my managers that I take too long to get to the point; I tend to ramble and, therefore, often lose my audience. I know that when I’m under pressure or stress, I can talk too much but I’m not sure what to do to change that. Can you help me get to the point more quickly and confidently?
First, let’s unpack this. Your question tells us that:
- While you are aware that this happens, you’re not clear about why it happens.
- Stress is impacting your performance and perhaps other parts of your life; you may lack the right tools for stress management.
So, exactly how is your problem a power problem? A few thoughts:
- This is a stress response—over-talking is something that happens to you when you feel powerless or not in control.
- You may not be taking yourself or your ideas seriously enough to think through what you want to say in advance.
- You may lack confidence or belief in what you are saying. People sometimes over-talk when they are trying to convince others of something they have doubts about.
- You’re not sufficiently aware of your audience, nor are you using your time or position effectively.
What’s the Solution?
To get past this, you’ll need to take your ideas more seriously and be more careful about thinking through what you want to say before a presentation or important conversation.
A good first step is to get a journal where you can develop your thinking and awareness of your audience. Use it to write down your thoughts and consider your point of view and opinion on matters. As you do this, consider your audience—what are their needs, and how do your thoughts connect to those?
Developing your thinking in this way will help you anticipate when and where you get stressed and develop tools for managing it. Preparation = less stress = more confidence = strong, self-assured communication skills.
Additional steps to help you reign in the rambling include:
- Make notes before and during meetings to help you reflect on and track your thoughts before sharing them out loud.
- Narrow your focus to sharing just one point of view that you’ve fully flushed out ahead of time—a point that you feel strongly about—so you come off as strategic and organized. If necessary for important matters, you can always follow up afterward with additional thoughts in a non-meeting setting like an email or internal chat platform.
- Practice getting to the point more succinctly. We love this idea from Harvard Business Review: think of your sentences in tweet form. Ask yourself, “How would I communicate this idea if I were tweeting and facing a character limit? How can I cut my message down to its essence?”
You have smart, thoughtful ideas to contribute to the conversation! With a little work behind the scenes, you’ll be getting your point across in no time.