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Stop Over-explaining!

Mike BabcockI 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-heggie2 500Betty 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.

tenille lafontaine“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!

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  • I always over explain when it comes to my kids, but the few times I did stop myself worked, my daughter wanted me to buy her something that was just out of my price range, I usually try to give as I can afford when I went to explain why I thought I just have to say not this time and she understood that.

  • I used to have to send out communications to large groups of people, which I learned to make succinct and as brief as possible, which were very effective. Once my manager wanted me to add much more information. When I did it his way, people were confused and bombarded us with mass calls for a short explanation of what it was about. Talk about TMI!! After that he didn’t bother to improve my style!!

  • When it comes to the workplace, I find it’s better not to verbally explain all you actions and rather let the results speak for themselves. Otherwise, it sounds like you have self doubt and are trying to justify yourself.

  • I do tend to over-expalin and it is something I am working on, but when I make a clear short statement to someone it gets a much better response than if I try to give too many examples or explanations.

  • that is a tough one! All that pops into my head is in regards to my son. No means no and that is that. I have always found if I explain too much it keeps going and an on trying to convince me. He understands now when I say no it is pretty final. We will see if that sticks in a few more years

  • I think in the work place not over explaining gives you more time to get what you need done, and gives you more freedom.

  • In a group project one time, I held back from over-explaining why I thought the direction I was suggesting was a good idea. I told my group members to think about it and reason it out for themselves and then decide whether we should go that route or take a different approach. It worked out in the end, because they got to make the decision for themselves and were more supportive of future hiccups with the project since they weren’t “convinced” by me to take that direction.

  • i was about to give an answer as to why someone was wrong but held back. good thing too because as it turned out i wasn’t so right after all.

  • Explaining how yummy food was, and not mentioning just how many vegetables were in the dish (some people big and small are really not fond of vegetables).

  • I have learned through the years when it comes to my hubby not to over explain things cause I find when I do try to over explain it doesnt register with him. It’s like half way through he goes into shut down mode and doesn’t remember what it is that I was explaining. So now I know with him short and sweet, get right to the point

  • My husband’s lawyer for his car accident explained how important it was to answer questions given by the other lawyer with simple yes and no and not get into detail…it was difficult to not explain after answering with yes and no but I did it and I was told that I did an amazing job

  • When I was in university I learned the value of not over explaining during my clinical placements. By using silence and simple questions it gets the individual to come up with solutions to their own problems and not just giving them a pat response and a “this is what you must do” answer.

  • I really don’t have many. But today I definately over shared too much at work and my boss said its too confusing with me all over the place. This article helped!

  • I can’t think about such a time… I think I’m always oversharing and over explaining. At least in real life (on the internet I try to keep my presence short and and to the point). And it always turns into disaster for me. With the kids, though I believe explaining a “no” can help to build trust . But I try to do it once, after that it’s just a “no”.

  • I think talking to my parents about technology is best when not to over share. I think oversharing info only confuses them and makes something that is relatively simple much more complicated.

  • It happens all the time with my kids lol most of the time – with them – over explaining never works to my benefit haha for example: telling them we are going to be busy tomorrow but not explaining I have a huge massive fun day planned works to my benefit because they’re not still awake – unable to sleep- due to excitement lol

  • When I ended a shaky relationship with my then boyfriend. He tells me what I want to hear and at the end of it all, he usually has me right where he wants me. so by not over explaining why I wanted to end the relationship, I stopped myself from falling into that trap again.

  • I tend to over explain things all the time and sometimes it works to my benefit and other times it doesn’t. So now I try to keep it at a minimum unless I have to go further.

  • When times get tough and really busy with work, school and moving; I stopped complaining and kept a positive attitude!

  • I tend to over explain and sometimes that can look like guilt rather just trying to make a point – I have had this issue in a previous relationship and found it was better to keep things simple!

  • over explaining to my sister on how to use come computer programs never worked, with her I had to get straight to the point and show her, some don’t catch on with explaiining they need to be shown

  • I stopped overexplaining to my friends and family and notice that issues I think are really significant may not be really important to others at all.

  • At work I often had to go to exam for discoveries and quickly learned that that is one thing not to do. Only answer as much as you need to.

  • I try not to over explain to my parents why I raise my kids differently than they raised me in some ways. They are super old school and I can explain for hours. They just don’t get it.

  • I had to break up a friendship a couple years back because she was using me. I tried to be get her to see what she was doing etc but it just wasn’t working and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I finally had to stop explaining to her and just say No. After several firm No’s she obviously got it because she stopped calling.

  • Often when parenting over explaining is my downfall. My children tend to think they can question what I’ve told them to do then.

  • I get panic attacks and often times I will have to leave a situation that makes me feel panicky. I used to feel a lot of guilt and shame over it and would often over explain why I had to go and it seemed like people just thought I was using that as an excuse to not have to be there. One day I finally just said “I am panicky and I need to leave”. No explanations. It felt like I gained a bit more control over my life that day and it seemed like I was understood.

  • I am the queen of filling awkward silence with over explaining, I got to the point when asked about something I wouldn’t worry too much and just answer the question

  • I discovered that simply saying No to a request works much better than explaining why not. For instance , if someone asks me to do something such as keep an eye on their kids for half an hour after school say , and they live next door. Previously , if I said I didn’t have the time or didn’t feel well or whatever the person asking would say but it’s only half an hour, or whatever. But if I say No with no explanation whatever, then they really can’t come up with anything to try to convince me otherwise.

  • At condo board meeting where i am the only woman i have found that less is more when it comes to discussions, as the guys tend only listen tone another at times. So i find if i express my opinion in point blank terms that the respond better.

  • its tough to think of a time it worked in my benefit since this is one of my biggest flaws. massively i do it all the time (i think im doing it now LOL). I guess ultimately my best example was that i was raised to not see my progressive, genetic, potentially fatal disease as a big deal, therefore i never overexplained it to anyone, including my first boyfriend who is now my husband. i think my parents therefore may have given me the greatest gift i could have been given.

  • This is a bit of a point of contention in my marriage… when I’m worried my husband will disagree with something I don’t even give him a chance to respond, I’ll just start explaining why I feel a certain way or why I think it’s a good idea. It drives him nuts, he always feels like I’m talking to him like he’s an idiot. Refraining from doing so has saved us fights 🙂

  • during interviews i find it is best to not over explain everything. finding the balance between over and under explaining can be tricky but has it’s benefits

  • there are times when you do have to over explain things, and other times it’s best not to. It depends on the situation

  • In negotiations, a very strong tactic is to make your point briefly and then wait. The other person tends to start talking to fill an awkward silence and you often get further by letting them flounder 🙂

  • I always over explain! ALWAYS!!! Unless I get a response the first time in agreement, I will repeat it in another way or a different example, until I feel they get the point. I am learning that people don’t have to “get the point” and by only saying it once. It’s less stress, if they get it they get it, if they don’t they will ask. Simplify life.

  • It is beneficial at work to not over explain. I used to do it too much and I found myself just stressing out. Once I started not doing it, I found I was less stressed.

  • What I’ve learned to date – when friends are looking for work – nothing wrong with sending them links to the job postings….but going beyond on that – writing it, cold calling for them – kind of defeats their purpose on landing the careeer of a lifetime for them. One thing to accomodate friends but draw the line – don’t take away the responsibility from them…..no need to explain what “I would do” and explain step by step. Sometimes we all need to fall to succeed on our own merits.

  • I myself like to get to the point…It’s hard for me when explaining my rare illness though. Just this week I spoke to a surgeon about removing skin cancer from my nose. Scarey stuff especially with my health but found he didn’t seem to want much info. I guess he just needs to do his job regardless of my health and thats get the cancer!

  • I tend to over explain everything and I’m working on that. Getting to the point is much more efficient. When I don’t over explain to my husband he gets the message a lot faster.

  • when stopped at a road block – just answer the officer’s questions and don’t blab on about anything (that’s what i do and it saves everyone time!)

  • When I am explaining to my mother how to use technology, it’s so much better for me not to over explain. The less explanation, the better.

  • I always explained things to my kids about how to do things giving them precise instructions. I found too much explaining left them puzzled and did not give them the chance to use their heads and work them out. I eventually figured it out and decided as long as I got the outcome I was hoping for it did not really matter what order it was done in.

  • Every time I talk with my mother as it would just lead to an argument, she is always right I just shut my mouth to keep the peace

  • I remember when I was a very little child and I was trying to give my Mom an elaborate., long-winded and convoluted explanation about something to her, when she abruptly stopped me and said:

    “First of all ~ for your single transgression (lapse of something) you just gave me at least 10 explanations / excuses and THAT is at least 9 too many. (“me thinks thou dost protest too much!) some so over-the top that they they cast doubt on everything else.

    But beyond that (as Mom would remind me frequently ~ we should should follow the example and edict) of the British Secret Service *** : “Don’t Explain, Don’t Complain and Don’t Apologize” (**** I’m not sure if it is/was the British Secret Service ~ but it was/is SOMEONE’S code and its a good one. I highly recommend it ~ it will serve you well,,,,.

    * I should add that I don’t believe (like many do ~ including the beloved Leroy Jethro Gibbs / NCIS) ~ that “apologizing is a sign of weakness” ~ sometimes you do something wrong to someone and then YES – you should say you are SORRY (and really mean it”) ~ but then leave it alone. Don’t cheaper, dilute or try to “qualify” it with Excuses and Explanations. Apologize and move on.

  • I’ve recently stopped giving telemarketers the opportunity to waste my time. A simple “No, thank you” followed by the immediate disconnection of the call is very liberating. I’m never rude, just firm.

  • I honestly can’t think of a good example. I’m a terrible over explainer. I definitely regret it sometimes, especially when it feels awkward around those to-the-point people. I guess I’ll borrow from an example above and say conversations with telemarketers. They seem to go best when I repeat a simple, “I’m not interested.”

  • Its good not to over-explain things when meeting new people so it gives them an opportunity to talk and tell you about themselves. When you talk less, you hear more and learn more.

  • Perfect example of less is more…when applying for a new job, no need to bring up any negativity of a past one. Even though you may want to, it’s not necessary, and discuss and concentrate on YOUR great qualities!

  • It happens all the time with my own kids! And also when I was a supervisor in retail training new employees, I tried to not over-explain their job duties, as it’s just way too much info to take in at once (especially on their first day of work). Brains can only handle so much info at one time, it’s more beneficial to leave out all the little details. I knew from experience that they’d forget 75% of what I told them if I didn’t simplify.

  • I once asked my boss if I could do something and she said “yes”….I started to explain at which point she said, “I have already said yes — if you keep talking I might end up saying no.” I stopped right there and it reminded me that sometimes less is more!

  • At work if I had an appointment, I simply stated “I have an appointment “, boss wanted to know who, what, where, why. I didn’t oblige to his request. He tried to scare me, so weI had a meeting with him, HR and myself where he berated me about not telling him my personal information. The HR person asked me, and I still gave I have an appointment, went silent and HR then said to my boss, that’s all she needs to tell you. It was uncomfortable for a bit, but my life is not for everyone else’s entertainment!

  • It’s a learning experience for me still that I do not have to explain why my answer is yes or no sometimes…like when I have to decline an invitation a simple answer is sufficient.

  • When explaining why something was broken (when I was younger)! I said too much and even though I didn’t mean to break it, it still happened!

  • I did this all the time at work! I always felt like my boss will doubt me or not believe me so I tend to over-explain…and by the time I’m done, I just wish I had never said anything and kept my mouth shut. If they haven’t questioned me or asked me anything, why am I voluntarily giving them info? Ugh!

  • I tend to over-explain way too much, too often. To the point where I put my foot in my mouth. I can’t think of a particular time when not doing that helped, but I’d say when my daughter was in her terrible teens. Direct and to the point worked best. I avoided many “blowups”.

  • I’m awful for over explaining and talking in circles! I can’t even think of a time where I haven’t done that, it’s definitely something I need to work on! Thank you for bringing up this topic, it’s been a moment for reflection for me.

  • I’m definitely someone that over explains. I think its most useful to avoid, when at work. Makes everything easier to understand

  • I know when I over explain, oftentimes people just plain quit listening. I tend to over explain to my husband. I have found when he asks something he doesnt want the back story, my opinions so much bit just aa simple answer and not an ongoing conversation. Direct answers make things easier.

  • Less over explaining and more listening make me a better wife, mother and colleague. I talk (A LOT) and when I dial that back I’m so much better at living life!

  • I think not over-explaining helped me out last week when I got pulled over by the police while driving. He said I didn’t come to a full & complete stop at a stop sign. I knew no matter what it was his word against mine, but in the end my great driving record meant I left with just a warning.

  • I am so guilty of this. My anxiety makes me even worse! LoL
    I think when I am passionate about something I have an easier time of just stating my opinion and letting it go (unless challenged or questioned)
    I was recently asked to help out with an event last minute. I really did not want to help out, I had just got out of the shower and put my pj’s on, and was an hour behind on supper – my kids require a schedule so I get extremely stressed when it gets thrown out of whack(<—–over explaining!)
    Anyhow… I simply said I could not, that I wish they had asked me sooner.
    I could have gone into my normal long winded explanation of why I couldn't help out, but I didn't.

  • I stopped over explaining how to use the iPad to my Mother, and she finally got it. When I was trying to over explain how to use it, I was confusing her too much.

  • I am guilty of this, especially at work! I’ve come to realize short and simple answers are better suited there and I’m trying very hard to rein myself in.

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