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Home » Blog » Know When It’s Time To Shut Up

Know When It’s Time To Shut Up

Posted on October 13th, 2017 by Gecko Recruitment

shut up

Brevity is the soul of wit.

You could apply this to any form of communication, written or spoken, but in certain situations it is crucial to understand when talking too much can defeat the object. You talk to get a message across to someone. If you talk too much, that message can get lost, people can switch off, and they may be less likely to listen to you in the future.

Our ancestors did not have issues with clarity of communication. The “oral tradition” meant that only the simplest and most poignant stories were passed on from generation to generation – the complicated stories would have been distorted and forgotten. In ancient times, there was no way to record these messages other than word of mouth. They had to be pithy and memorable.

In our modern age of information overload, our brains are bombarded with messages every minute of the day. Our lives have never been busier or more complicated, and there is very little headspace for anything else. At work, we interact with more people than ever before – from different functions, backgrounds, and cultures – and we are expected to process and analyse more information than ever before.

When you are chatting to someone, it is rare that you have their undivided attention. What percentage of their attention is focussed on you is down to the power of what you are saying to them.

For me, there is a simple equation: Power = Impact / Length. i.e. the shorter the message, the more powerful. It is true that some messages are best woven inside a story, which may impact the length, but in most cases keeping it brief is best.

There is no better indication of this phenomenon than in an interview.

I run a Recruitment-to-Recruitment search firm, and I have interviewed thousands of candidates over my career. It is my personal experience that those candidates who talk the most are those who have the least to say. I understand that people might talk too much because of nerves, but in an interview situation, they need to realize that the aim is to make their message simple and memorable. It will be rare that a hiring decision is made immediately after the interview, and the candidate who rambled will be forgotten in an instant. Keep it concise, relevant and interesting.

Partly, it is about being self-aware and reading the situation. Those candidates who have good inter-personal skills understand the questions where they can expand on their answers, and they understand where a couple of sentences will suffice. An inexperienced interviewee may keep talking just because the interviewer hasn’t asked the next question or asked them to stop talking. But if you keep talking just to fill a silence then you could be talking yourself out of a job. The busy world of work has no place for a chatterbox – people don’t want to waste time listening to someone’s irrelevant drivel.

I think that I have made my point clear enough – I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your precious time!

Keep it relevant, keep it short. If they want more, they will ask.

They will get the message and remember it.

Phil Dixon is Director at Gecko Recruitment specialists in Rec to Rec for Australia and the Asia Pacific region.

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