School Business Affairs January 2021

38 JANUARY 2021 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS MANAGEMENT BRIEFS You can begin to curb the behav- ior of a chronic talker by using subtle cues. For example, you might respond calmly and change the pace of the conversation. Many times, people will mimic this small change and can be redirected to more appropriate conversational tech- niques. Pair this strategy with physi- cally leaning away from the person and avoiding eye contact. If these small actions do not work, try glanc- ing at your watch or phone and see if the person will respond to a more overt cue. In spite of the fact that our par- ents taught us that it is rude to interrupt someone, that just might be the best strategy. Try interrupting their monologue to see if the person yields. Sometimes the overtalker is accustomed to being interrupted and this strategy works well. What if the chronic communica- tor interrupts or talks over you? This is also common. Gently raise your hand and politely indicate that you were not quite finished with your thought. If you suspect the person is a nar- cissist, there might be not any other option but to try to escape. Try a firm, “Excuse me!” followed by a statement indicating that you have an appointment. If you are the team leader, try set- ting parameters for discussion that limit the chronic talker’s airtime. Coach team members about how to speak in headlines, offer enough information for clarity, refrain from repeating information that has been previously stated, and set agendas and time limits for meetings. If someone significantly devi- ates from the task at hand, create a “parking lot” where specific points are recorded and can be revisited at a more appropriate juncture. With these expectations, the overtalker might be able to be refocused on more productive outcomes. Sometimes you are cornered by this chatterer outside of meetings. Under these circumstances, it might be best to take preemptive action. Let him know that you have a couple of minutes to chat and then have to move on to something else. This might seem rude, but chronic talkers are used to this type of inter- action and often receive the message very well. When You Are the Overtalker If you suspect that you might be guilty of overtalking, take McCros- key and Richmond’s self-assessment (see Additional Resources). It is a simple rating scale that will let you know if you might be annoying your friends and colleagues with too much chatter. If you believe you might be over- talking, it is never too late to become mindful of the give and take in the conversation and focus on subtle cues people give when they have become disengaged. Look for pat- terns of times when you overtalk and think about whether your com- ments add value to the conversation. Finally, remember, a conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. Taking Time to Retrain Chronic talking might stem from a variety of causes, none of which makes it easy to be on the receiving end of a diatribe. Using cues, overt actions and coaching, we can help our colleagues focus their thoughts and engage in higher level discus- sions. It might take time to “retrain” someone, but setting expectations and boundaries for communication will elevate everyone’s feelings of productivity and create more posi- tive interactions. Additional Resources James McCroskey and Virginia P Rich- mond. Talkaholic Scale. edu/~richmond/measures/talkaholic.pdf Nancy Wartik. “What to Do About an Overtalker.” The New York Times , December 11, 20 19. www.nytimes. com/2019/12/11/well/what-to-do-about- an-overtalker.html. Nan Wodarz is the interim head of Lin- den Hall School for Girls in Lititz, Penn- sylvania. Email: PREPARING FOR DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS Gearing up to have a difficult conversation with a colleague? Scott Hermann and Margaret Clauson shared these tips in the March 2020 issue of School Business Affairs : • Do your homework before the conversation. Gather the facts and background information related to the concern. • Be sure to have a few specific examples of the behavior or issue to share with the employee. • Keep in mind that you may not know the whole story. The other person likely will have additional information end even more likely will have an entirely different perspective. One of the hardest parts of a difficult conversation is deciding to have it, they say.