Chatterbox. Blabbermouth. Windbag. Blowhard. People who talk too much at the office don’t just earn wicked nicknames and supremely annoy the people around them. Studies show they also hurt their careers, especially women.
But what if you are the dreaded office Chatty Cathy or Blabbing Bob and you don’t even know it? Could you be the jabberjaws your coworkers can’t stand to see coming?
Here are four surefire ways to find out...before you accidentally commit career suicide:
1. Everyone near you wears earbuds.
If everyone everywhere you look has earbuds stuffed into their ears, or if they quickly jam them into their ears upon your approach, sorry, bud, they’re trying to avoid you. Hey, it could be worse. They could ruthlessly red light you.
To avoid being on the receiving end of embarrassing passive-aggressive blow-offs like this, schedule time to talk about specific work-related topics with your co-workers as needed and stay on-topic. Save the smalltalk for the breakroom and keep it brief. It shows respect for your fellow officemates and their time...and, fingers crossed, that you’re a recovering talkaholic.
2. You do most of the talking.
If you find that you initiate conversations with your coworkers most of the time -- c’mon, if you’re reading this you probably do -- and if you dominate most of the chitchats you start, chances are you blah, blah, blabbety-blah too much.
If you don’t realize it, you’re not alone. Most people aren’t aware that they talk too much, says Annie Stevens, managing partner at ClearRock, a Boston-based executive coaching firm. Her wise motto for workplace communication is simple: “Be brief, be brilliant, be gone.”
Instead of Bogart-ing conversations, wait for coworkers to kick off discussions with you from time to time and -- here comes the hard part for verbal vomiters -- practice biting your tongue while others talk. Don’t interrupt them, either.
3. People look at their phones when you talk.
Or at their watches or at their shoes or off in the distance. You get the point, er, then again maybe you don’t. If a person glazes over and looks like they’d rather be anywhere but here listening to you ramble, it’s because they probably would.
Take their dismissive body language as a hint and zip your lip. If you need to tell them something urgent, email or IM them. It’s going to be okay.
4. You can’t answer a question in a sentence or two.
Someone asks you what time it is and you tell them about the time someone told you the time that time you when you asked them for the time on the train. You follow? Nope. Neither did we. See? It’s annoying.
Be a pal and answer questions in a sentence or two, tops. Stop, listen to the question and think about your answer before opening up your mouth. You don’t have to blurt out whatever pops into your head. If the person who asked you the question has a follow-up question, then feel free to add to your answer. If not, clam up and move on.
If you’re guilty of being that guy or that gal in the office, the dreaded excessive talker, don’t despair and, please, don’t go running to your nearest coworker to tell them all about it. Talking too much at the office -- or anywhere -- is a bad habit and thankfully one that can be broken. Like unlearning any unwanted habitual behavior, it takes time, impulse control, practice and plenty of it.
Say it with us now: Less talk, more action. And don't make us say it again.