This article contrasts one I wrote on talking too much. What’s the balance many, including I, wonder?
We’ve all been in the presence of people who don’t talk much, if at all. It can be frustrating or downright agonizing, particularly if you’re sharing a car ride with them or at a party or working beside them. As uncomfortable it is for you, the consequences for the dead-silence types can be devastating to their job search and occupation.
I’ll be the first to admit that making small talk is not my forté, but I do all right when the moment calls for it. I’m better at asking questions to draw out information from anyone without sounding like a CIA interrogator.
I often wonder about the times I talk too little, why a failure to communicate comes over me. The reason for this, I believe, is lack of confidence and a touch of insecurity. I’m an articulate person. I might commit a misnomer here and there or forget what I was going to say, but for the most part I can communicate my thoughts and ideas.
I wrote about the opposite end of the spectrum, people who talk too much—a documented disability in some cases—and the effect it has on their job search and ability to function at work. I also believe that people who fail to talk at crucial moments hurt their chances in their job search and at work. Below are five areas where people must talk.
Networking—In your job search, networking in social settings, at networking events, and professional meetings; demonstrating your verbal communication skills is essential to success. People need to know what you want to do, what skills you possess, and the accomplishments you have under your belt.
Networking is a daily activity that permeates every aspect of our life. We network for the best mechanics, baby-sitters, great restaurants, and more. Networking to find a job obviously serves a different purpose than finding a trustworthy mechanic, but in all cases you have a goal which can only be accomplished through effective communications.
Telephone Interviews—First rule: don’t assume the telephone interview is only a screening, where you’ll only have to answer questions about your technical skills and salary expectations. They’ve become increasingly similar to face-to-face interviews. My jobseekers have been through multiple phone interviews—behavioral-based included—before a final face-to-face.
When you leave your contact information on voice mail, also include your personal commercial as something that will set you apart. You’re interested in the position and feel you’re the right person for the job because 1) you have the necessary experience, 2) meet all the requirements, 3) have job-related skills, and 4) the big one…you have quantified accomplishments that prove what you can do for the employer. Don’t be surprised if the hiring manager answers the phone; it happens, so be ready to talk.
Interviews—If you don’t talk, they won’t hear you. This is where your confidence must be abundantly clear. If you want to pretend you’re on stage, fine. This is your greatest performance. Preparation is the key. You know that you have to understand the job and company inside and out; but there is one other thing you have to know by heart…your résumé. Knowing your résumé will help you talk about yourself, particularly if you wrote it yourself.
Some of my jobseekers admit that they like an interview where they don’t have to talk. Letting the interviewer do all the talking is fine with them. It’s a good sign, they tell me. Wrong. Letting the interviewer talk non-stop prevents you from getting your key points into the conversation. How will they know you, if you don’t talk?
Meetings—You’ve secured a job. Your willingness to talk is just as important as when you were looking for a job. Employers like those who appear confident and who can engage. Have you ever been to a meeting where a group of people—not necessarily introverts, but more likely—never talk. Afterward they’ll approach a colleague and express their feelings about the topics covered, but not during the meeting. Why, I ask you?
Don’t rely on meeting leaders to ask for your opinion if you’re remaining silent. I’m sure you have great ideas, so why not express them. One person in my MBTI workshop said that all the extraverts talk over everyone. First of all, I don’t see that as a common practice. Second, fight back. That’s it, raise your voice to show you’re not timid; you can talk and have great ideas. The meeting leader will appreciate this.
Promotions, Special Requests—Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts, writes, “All too often, introverts get passed over for job offers and promotions while more extroverted colleagues get all the recognition….” I’m not saying that introverts are deficient and require help. But as an introvert, I tend to like writing more than speaking, because I express my ideas clearer on paper.
However, when it is required to use your verbal voice, such as following up on an e-mail about scheduling a special meeting for that company-paid training, you have to be on. You have to be psyched up for the moment; and even if you’re sweating, your stomach aches, you want to jump out of your skin, you still have to use the verbal communication skills that have been latent since you earned the job.
Where’s the balance? Talking too much can be detrimental to your success. We know people who make our minds go numb from their incessant babbling. They make us want to run in the opposite direction. But there are also those who don’t talk, which as you’ve seen can sabotage a job search and performance at work. There is a balance between the overly loquacious and the utterly dead silent. There are extravert types who can listen as well as they talk and introvert types who can talk as well as they listen. You know people like this, so emulate them…for the sake of your career.