I learned the W-A-I-T acronym in my graduate school training. I’ve always posted a small note on my wall, out of the client’s view, as a reminder. The letters stand for “Why Am I Talking?”

Why do people talk too much in business situations?

They’re anxious. Maybe the gathering is about a difficult subject or has important leaders present. Most people don’t want to be the center of attention, yet they’re afraid they’ll be ignored or negated. So they talk and talk. This is the anxiety speaking and it often isn’t pretty or welcome.
All of us need some sense of control but a few of us want a huge amount. One way people act on the need is to take charge and dominate the conversation. We’re all capable of this risky behavior.
You’re surrounded by some of the best and the brightest and want to show them your brainpower—so, you speak up, maybe too often. Not a bad strategy as long as what you say is well thought out and in synch with the topic at hand. Beware of the impulse to make a statement just to prove you’re in the game.
People are very competitive in obvious or subtle ways. Don’t be sucked into a winless battle or feel forced to make a comment or commitments you’re really not ready to live up to just because you want to win or beat out a colleague.
Clients often laugh when I warn them “never write down the first thing I say, because it’s not what I mean.” I have to process information, sometimes out loud, to get to its essence. When sitting with a coaching client, I’ll often do this very openly. Now, if I was to use my convoluted way of getting to a point among strangers or in a business development meeting, it might get me into some trouble or at least shown the door. If you tend to think out loud, keep it down and warn your public.

How Do You Know You’re Talking too Much?

When the listeners begin to roll their eyes, look out the window or to the floor, play with their handheld devices, or show no reaction whatsoever—you’ve lost them. Most helpful is the colleague who gently interrupts in an attempt to stop your forward progress. I had a boss who kicked us under the table, sometimes very hard, to relay the same message “be quiet.” However your audience reacts, it’s usually pretty obvious to tell people are not listening, assuming you're open to the feedback.

Tips and Techniques:

Monitor yourself by using WAIT, asking yourself “Why Am I Talking?”
Count to ten before piping up. Take time to think about what and how you want to say something before it crosses your lips.
Don’t be the first to talk. Let the discussion get going, assuring you’re on topic and tone.
Make sure you’re in the right place with the right people before being argumentative, controversial, or discussing confidential information. Take the temperature of the room and the pulse of the participants. Does your content fit?
Write down points you want to make. Put them in logical order so your delivery is concise and easy to understand.
Stay on topic. Is there anything more annoying than someone who’s off on a tangent while everyone is trying to make a decision? Avoid being that person.

Making your point, selling yourself in an interview, leading a discussion, or presenting to peers, colleagues, or supervisors are just some of the areas we cover in executive coaching sessions. Some very smart people can find themselves pretty tongue-tied or off topic without some practicing with a pro.

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.