I was sat with my friend Courtenay yesterday and discussing how work and life have been for him lately.
He’s going through some stuff at the moment and was talking about it all.
When I got back home after dinner I got a text from him that read ‘thanks for listening dude’
Not that I’m a very good listener.
But it gave me pause, and made me think about the power of not talking about yourself and why it’s such an important skill to develop.
A couple of Harvard neuroscientists used brain scanners to monitor blood flow between our neurons to see what happens when we talk to ourselves. Turns out that we LOVE it.
Not a surprise – what might be more of a surprise however is that we spend up to 40% of our conversations talking about yourselves.
That means almost half of what we say is about ourself.
Pretty incredible right?
It now stands to reason why ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People’ was and still is such a seminal book.
In particular – I’m reminded of how Carnegie writes that no one loves anything more than the sound of their own name – and that you can easily become one of the most loved people ‘at the party’ if you’re simply able to actively listen (which we’ll also come to).
Evidently – the art of NOT talking about yourself is an art that most people struggle to grasp.
I wanted to talk about it today because actually, it’s a skill that I think is critical to all forms of success in your life.
It’s definitely something that I struggle with – i.e not talking about myself too much.
Let’s go through to start with – all of the situations where NOT talking about yourself too much is advantageous.
(Please note – talking about your day, about your job etc – is another form of the same thing)
Talking about yourself too much with your spouse
Talking about yourself too much with your spouse I think is nauseating. I mean it’s the reason why your partner will thank you if you attentively listen right?
And who likes anyone who drones on about themselves all day.
You learn nothing of your partner’s likes and dislikes if you talk about yourself the whole time.
I know this because I’ve done it – and then I’ve missed out on key cues that are important to our relationship – because I’ve been a poor listener.
It’s actually something I’m working on in my coaching session.
Talking about yourself too much with your mates
The principle is the same here – that to have your friends appreciate you – it stems from listening actively. And that can only come as a consequence of talking about yourself less.
As I write this, I’m realising there are several friends I’ve got in business whom I just speak to about myself with.
And I realise – I don’t think it’s particularly pleasant nor interesting to listen to.
Talking about yourself too much with your work colleagues
Interestingly – being the solo director at Pearl Lemon has meant that I’ve been forced to stop talking about myself too much.
The reason for this is that we’ve only got me at the director level (which is a problem that Courtenay has just identified to me, in fact, to be resolved).
So – inside of the team – most of the time is spent listening to other people’s problems.
With all of that being said – I see I do a pretty good job of speaking rather than listening through the continual training I’m giving people so I’d say I’m still weak at this.
Anyway – let’s dive right into strategies you can employ to stop talking about yourself too much – because when you make room for other people’s dialogue – magic happens:
Each time you want to speak – consciously stop yourself
At the beginning of your non-talking journey – most of your conscious focus will be upon making sure that you shut up. To begin with – this is going to be pretty challenging because you’ll quickly discover that it’s not a natural thing to do.
Embrace the resistance of not speaking
You’ll feel a pull to wishing to speak, to begin with, and it’s going to drown out what the other person is saying. That’s because you’ve not built your muscular resistance. If you typically talk about yourself 40% of the time (as according to the average) – then reducing it to 30% of the time is still a staggering 25% drop in speech.
That’s a significant decrease in the amount of time you spend not talking and therefore likely an increase in the amount of time your friend/colleague/spouse spends talking
Remember the rewards are rich for he/she who speaks less
If you’re able to do this for an extended period of time – you’re going to learn more about the people around you than you’ve ever learnt before. And you may well learn things about people you’ve known for a very long time. There’s great power in this – so remember the rewards you’re in this for.
Remember hearing is a passive process, Listening is an active process
It’s important to remind yourself that the point of talking about yourself less is so that you can actively listen more. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hearing what your partner is saying (whilst you’re watching something or doing something) – but NOT attentively listening.
It doesn’t end well – and also you’re not able to critically engage in the conversation at all
Your likeability is often measured by the strength of the questions you ask
So this is something you can do to gamify the ‘not talking about yourself situation’. The game can be to ask a minimum of 3 questions to the person you’re listening to – in every next conversation you have. Get used to this rule of three until it becomes muscle memory.
And remember – make sure they’re insightful questions based upon something that’s been said as opposed to perfunctory questions that DON’T demonstrate active listening.
Avoid Trigger Words Such As ‘I’ ‘Me’ and ‘My’
This is probably obvious as to why it’s important to avoid words such as these. It’ll be a tangible way to ensure you keep the conversation centred on the person you’re listening to. What you want to do instead is to ask questions about the other person. ‘How are you?’ ‘How’s it going?’ etc etc
When you do talk about yourself – keep it brief(ish)
This is probably a good rule for dating as well (it brings some memories back) – that a good way to build intrigue is too NOT to talk about yourself much at all. And of course, when you do speak – you keep it brief.
You’ll often see this in movies when you see one of the two people dating say ‘tell me about yourself – I feel like I don’t know anything about you’ – and generally – the person asking this never finds out more anyway lol.
Practice Makes Perfect – So Try This Experiment
I’ve separated this one out of slights because I think it’ll make for a pretty interesting challenge. Why not try 72 hours without talking about yourself at all (IF POSSIBLE).
I.e if you enter into conversations you say nothing much of yourself and instead focus on the person you’re speaking to.
You may well find some amazing results that come from this such as learning more, being more liked, and it being a great mental challenge for yourself
Talking about yourself is [too much] is something that we all do. And I don’t think it’s something that any of us should stop doing anytime soon.
But I know for a fact that the number one factor in succeeding within sales is learning to actively listen.
And that begins with speaking less.
There’s no denying we all love the sound of our own voice – which is why I try and get my ‘speaking about myself’ done in the mornings haha – through these blogs.
That’s me – over and out 🙂