I love how life can run parallel with experiences coming together and then overlapping in an ah-ha moment! My husband and I often talk about people-watching, how people can certainly surprise you but more often than not you can kind of predict how a particular person will react to a particular situation. Working in law enforcement, he certainly has instances where people will over-explain, probably not to their benefit! I have laughed with that scenario because, when interviewed, I have had to be careful not to over-explain as well! I get it!
He shared with me a common situation used on the job (this isn’t an industry secret!) – people don’t like silence and if you don’t speak, they will to fill that silence. Hence, over-explaining. In media, journalists will often leave that empty space there when they want their subject to talk more, perhaps to get to the core answer or simply to make their subject squirm a little if they’re not getting the direct answer they’re looking for. Thankfully, my media appearances are quite light compared to what others may have, but even so I’ve learned that I need to get to the point and put a period at the end of my sentence, silence be damned!
Betty Ann Heggie shared a blog post about over-explaining recently, and she nailed it, with the help of a hockey coach you may know of.
In his book Leave No Doubt, Mike Babcock says that he’s learned from various tough-calls while he was coaching the Detroit Red Wings during the Stanley Cup playoffs and in 2010 coaching Team Canada at the Winter Olympics. He explains that you need to “get to the point and not over-explain it” when making those tough calls like pulling a goaltender, for example.
In general, women tend to over-explain and fill in a lot of the awkward silence with emotion and sharing more than we need to. Frustrating in an argument with your spouse (he’s to the point and you’re telling a long story explaining why you feel the way you do) but it can really be detrimental at work, especially if you’re working with men who approach the situation with that to-the-point style.
“Too often women feel the need to fill in the space with a lot of explanation, which ends up being confusing. By the time we are finished justifying and defending, no one is quite sure of the message,” shares Betty-Ann Heggie. “When you keep it simple, you have more opportunity to control your message. You step out of a dance.”
I know this to be all-too-true as a parent. When one of my kids makes a request that’s a definite “no” answer, I’ve had to stop myself from “dancing” with them when they ask, “But why not?” The answer is simply no, and there is no explanation needed because I’m confident in that answer.
Can you think of a time when you stopped yourself from over-explaining? Or are you guilty of getting into that dance, and not being able to stop twirling on the dance floor? It takes two to tango, as they say! We’re asking you to talk about over-explaining in this month’s contest from Betty-Ann Heggie!