Talk Talk Talk

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Wait for an Answer
Some people like to think then talk. Others like to talk as they think. Our industry tends to have more people who like to think, then talk. So when you ask a question, give the other person some time to answer, pause, and count to ten. Wait patiently. The other person will answer.

The Other Side of the Desk
What can you do when your manager doesn't leave room to get a word in edgewise?

Based on what I've seen, many people, like the 95 percent talk manager I observed, are unaware of that they are dominating the conversation. Some managers are uncomfortable with silence. Others assume that since the other person isn't jumping in, they don't have anything to say.

The trouble is, when you don't share the same style, jumping vocally can be difficult. Try telegraphing your desire to speak in other ways: 

  • Send an email ahead of time with the topics you'd like to cover. Bring a copy with you to the meeting. Before the manager builds up a head of steam, gently push the topic list across the desk.
  • Lean forward, open your mouth as if you are about to speak, and raise your hand slightly. Clear your throat, then begin speaking.
  • Wait until your manager takes a breath (everyone has to inhale sooner or later). Start talking.
  • Raise your index finger and place it in front of your lips. Most people recognize this as a sign you want them to be quiet for a while.
  • If you are comfortable jumping into the monologue, say something like, "Excuse me, I have some information I think you need to know." Then keep talking.

Managers need excellent communication skills and that doesn't just mean talking. Part of good communication involves knowing when to ask a question and when to be silent and listen.

About the author

Esther Derby's picture Esther Derby

A regular StickyMinds.com and Better Software magazine contributor, Esther Derby is one of the rare breed of consultants who blends the technical issues and managerial issues with the people-side issues. She is well known for helping teams grow to new levels of productivity. Project retrospectives and project assessments are two of Esther's key practices that serve as effective tools to start a team's transformation. Recognized as one of the world's leaders in retrospective facilitation, she often receives requests asking her to work with struggling teams. Esther is one of the founders of the AYE Conference. She co-author of Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great. She has presented at STAREAST, STARWEST and the Better Software Conference & EXPO. You can read more of Esther's musings on the wonderful world of software at www.estherderby.com and on her weblog at www.estherderby.com/weblog/blogger.html. Her email is derby@estherderby.com.

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