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I have a problem where I talk too much on dates and job interviews. This can lead to revealing too much information, not asking enough questions (especially on dates), and veering into overly intense topics like politics, extremes of human experience, or my own goals and desires - among other problems. Interviewers and dates don't give direct feedback about this, but I haven't been on more than a second date or received follow up on any job interviews and I realise I've talked too much. Sometimes I can feel myself making a mistake but I find more moments I could have kept my mouth shut after the fact. Many friends have suggested that I need to talk less, give shorter answers to questions, and avoid opinions until I have been in a workplace for a reasonable amount of time or am in a committed relationship.

Based on feedback I have received, I'm an attractive person, a good storyteller and can speak knowledgeably on many topics, but this is not always what people are looking for in a date or an employee. Some of my problem is being focused on wanting a good result (a job, another date) and trying to impress. What are some strategies I can use to slow down and say less?

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  • What have you tried to do so you speak less? Are you aware in the moment that you're talking too much or does this realisation only come after? In the latter case, what's making you sure you talked too much, is this feedback you get from others or just something you worry about yourself?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Jan 29 at 9:09
  • see above. Sometimes I can feel myself making a mistake but I find more moments I could have kept my mouth shut after the fact.
    – WhooNo
    Jan 29 at 16:24
  • 2
    You may need formulas, like "3 sentences at a time. Then a breath" or "Speak 33% of the time." Jan 30 at 16:43
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    How long do you wait until you start talking? I've found that taking a deliberate "break" in the conversation before replying is very helpful to not accidentally start rushing away with ideas and conversation. Especially for interviews I will sometimes even tell them that I need a moment to think about that, and the vast majority of times this has been viewed as a positive rather than a waste of their time. It also allows the other person to keep talking if they weren't finished and were just taking a break themselves. Just a few deliberate seconds of silence went a long way for me :)
    – Tony
    Feb 2 at 14:57

2 Answers 2

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I find more moments I could have kept my mouth shut after the fact...
Many friends have suggested that I need to talk less, give shorter answers...

Both 'no second date' and 'no second interview' can be caused by a mismatch that
neither talking nor silence can fix. But I think you've found the correct problem.
You recognize it, you can improve on it.

What are some strategies I can use to slow down and say less?

The first thing is to consider why you need to do it.
Thinking about "why", can help with the "how".

For both job interviews and dates

Talking too much:

  • Creates a bad first impression.
    Either it shows you aren't interested in them, or you come across as anxious.
    Anxious is better, but isn't good.
  • Keeps you from making a personal connection.
    You want them to develop a personal connection to you.
  • Causes you to miss opportunities.
    How will you discover shared interests, or common ground when they aren't talking?
  • Can cause an interview/date to run long
    Often they'll cut it short before asking you everything they want to know. You aren't the best candidate if they don't have their answers.

Strategies:
Balance is the key.
Give relevant information without unnecessary details.
Those friends you mentioned - practice this with them.

Practicing in normal social situations is lower pressure, and you can encourage them if they offer you feedback. You can also, if you're brave, ask "At what point just now, did you think I was going on too long?" Might be earlier than you think.
(Don't forget to thank them. Because they
may stop doing if they don't get encouragement.)

Specific to Job interviews -

I have attended a lot of them over the past twenty plus years.
I have been part of an interview team more than once.

What it takes to succeed in a job interview varies based on: the position you're interviewing for, the industry it is in, and the person/people interviewing you.
Although jobs vary, I'd say 'talking too much' is likely one of the universal ways to fail a job interview (showing disrespect is another).
Maybe you won't fail for talking too much, it still bad.

I try to keep the following in mind when I interview:

  1. Respond to only the question asked.
    Briefly verbalize relevant skills/qualifications, then stop talking.
    If they want you to elaborate, they will ask you a follow up question.

  2. If the question is about you ("Tell me about yourself")
    Have a few sentences memorized in advance that answer it briefly.
    Recite what you've memorized and stop talking. This is the toughest type of question for your issue because there are no guardrails to keep you on track, and no stop sign. The goal of an interview is to appear as though you are someone who can and will do the work.
    If I think you will spend your day telling stories to other employees, I can't hire you because then I have two people who aren't working (you + your target).

  3. Answering a question with a story is sometimes appropriate.
    If you answer with a story and you find yourself moving on to a different story - that should be a big warning flag to yourself.
    Circling back to an earlier part the story - also a flag. (I've made that mistake more than once.)

If you notice while you are doing it, it probably isn't too late.

Pause and recover:

  • Stop talking immediately.
    Yes... even in the middle of a sentence!
  • Take a slow breath.
  • Address the issue.
    Example: "I'm sorry, have I already answered the question well enough? I don't want to go too long."
    This puts them back in control. They can either move to the next topic or ask a follow-up question based on your answer.
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One way for me to keep from talking too much is for me to ask interesting questions to get the other person talking so I don't have to.

Personally I have benefited greatly from "Big Talk questions." They give me something interesting I found out about Big Talk first on a TED talk. The web site of the TED talk speaker is https://www.makebigtalk.com/, and although she sells card packs, you can find lists of some of the questions online if you do a web search for "big talk questions." (I have no affiliation with this and don't make any money from the recommendation.) You probably only need to memorize 4 or 5 of them to start with. Here are a few sample questions. I hope you find this helpful; I know I have.

What is the most heartwarming thing you’ve ever seen?

Where do you find peace?

What is the farthest you’ve ever been from home?

What gives you hope?

What do you hope never changes?

What makes you feel most alive?

What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?

What is the most interesting place you’ve been to?

What is the luckiest thing that has happened to you?

What age do you want to live to?

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  • The user asked for strategies, not questions to ask. While I think they are good questions, maybe you could rephrase your answer so it clearly addresses actions that can be taken. I am not the downvoter. Feb 27 at 18:22
  • Thanks. I have reworded to describe this as a strategy. Mar 3 at 3:57
  • Happy to help, yes, I like get the other person talking so I don't have to +1 now you aren't negative :-) Mar 4 at 16:37

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