A few weeks ago I was exhibiting at a trade show and experienced a communication pattern which I now realize is not so uncommon. People would walk by the booth and I’d ask a qualifying question. If they answered affirmatively, I’d continue the conversation. One of the quickest ways to learn that someone is not a buyer is to listen to their conversational pattern. They don’t stop talking. These people don’t pick up on subtle cues such as noticing I’m moving away or using an exit line. They get caught up in their own loquaciousness. I call it verbal vomiting. According to wikipedia, vomiting is “the forceful expulsion of the contents of one’s stomach through the mouth." Verbal vomiting is the forceful expulsion of the contents of one’s mind through the mouth and projecting it at whoever has engaged them in discourse. One person approached me at the booth and confided that he had creative ideas but couldn’t express them as message points. He would talk in circles. I suggested he talk it out with a writer who could interview him and capture his ideas. He loved my suggestion and asked me if I could help. “No, that’s not what I do,” I explained. “It’s not about the money,” he countered. I told him to look for a writer and that I didn’t know anybody. He continued talking and I realized that much of the time people are just looking for free therapy. Like Joe the bartender, they want someone with whom they can share their story without any real commitment to solving the problem. I wished him luck and walked to the other side of the booth.
Sadly, he wasn’t the only case. Another attendee walked by the booth. It was clear in the first five seconds that he was not a prospect. Did he care? Of course, not. He kept talking. There was no awareness that he was wasting my time or that I was bored to tears. With some people you have to be rude before they get the message.
Verbal vomiting is not limited to trade shows. A couple of years ago, I had hired a woman to do some SEO marketing. When the contract was coming to an end, Kathy (not her real name) phoned me to renew the agreement. She talked non-stop and never came up for air. There was not even a nano second of a pause where I could interject. I called her name-”Kathy.” No answer. I tried again a little louder, “Kathy!” I screamed into the phone, “Kathy!!!” She never stopped and I don’t think she heard me. Was her phone on mute? Did she think she would sell me if she kept talking? I hung up the phone. I believe Kathy is out of business today.
This communication pattern can also cost you a job offer. Nervous job candidates rattle on without taking a breath. Silence is frightening so they fill in the gaps with idle chatter. Here’s where many candidates derail. By talking too much they reveal information and can talk themselves into a corner. Incessant chatter conveys nervousness and a lack of preparation. A skilled interviewer will wonder what the applicant may be hiding.
If you still think you haven’t experienced verbal vomiting, then think back to your last networking meeting. We’ve all heard the person who goes on and on until the moderator has to intervene. What people don’t realize is that when it comes to communication, less is more. The listener just can’t absorb all that information. And when you drone on about yourself, you bore the audience and lose the opportunity for a relationship. Communication is not about giving a speech. It’s an exchange of ideas, a dialogue. It’s not about you. It’s about them-the audience. The best defense against this kind of communicator is to have a list of exit lines. “It’s been nice talking to you.” “I don’t want to monopolize your time.” “I’m going to get a refill.”
Reverse peristalsis is nature’s way of ridding the body of poisons. In communication, verbal vomiting is poisonous to your audience. The antacid is to observe body language, take turns, ask questions and listen. The key to effective communication is to be listener-centered.