The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Work Daze: Yakety Yak

Talk is cheap, or so they say.

According to Joanne S. Lublin, talk is expensive. Really expensive.

Of course, you remember Joann S. Lublin, the careers columnist for The Wall Street Journal, and the person whose job I would definitely have if the world made any sense at all.


“Talkaholics Sink Partnership, Presentations — and Careers” is the latest in the Lublin oeuvre. If you can take a break from your constant yammering, it will be well worth your while to consider her point of view.

“Long-winded executives think they’re personable,” Lublin writes, “but loquaciousness can turn off colleagues and potential clients.”

Too much me-talk can definitely turn off hiring managers. By rattling on about yourself in a job interview, you show that you are not a good listener, and, even more important, you don’t let the hiring manager rattle on about herself.

“I felt like I was being filibustered,” says a chief executive about a job interview with a talkative job candidate. “There should be no need for verbal diarrhea.”

If “verbal diarrhea” seems like an overly harsh description of your skills as a raconteur, take comfort in the discovery of a great new excuse for not going to work.

“I can’t possibly come in today,” you say when you call in. “Got a bad case of verbal diarrhea. Must have listened to some bad conversation that was way beyond its expiration date. Or maybe it started when I was seven and my parents wouldn’t let me have a G.I. Joe…”

Continue yakking until your manager hangs up, or hangs himself. Either way, you win.

If a certain level of verbosity might have helped you in the past, or, at least, not hurt you too much, the fast pace of business today significantly increases the stigma of being a Chatty Cathy in the workplace.

“In a world where leaders issue policy pronouncements in 140-character bursts, shorter attention spans mean executives must make their point quickly,” says John Hartmann, head of True Value Co.

(Which leader Hartmann refers to is a completely mystery to me. I suppose he’s talking about the Bieb.)

When low-level people talk too much, they don’t get hired. When high-level executives come down with a potentially fatal case of terminal verbosity, they get coaches. To cure “star players” of their talkaholic tendencies, a company will cheerfully shell out between $300 and $500 an hour for a professional to tell executives to button it.

One such coach, Laurie Schloff, recommends that talky types “picture the word ‘WAIT’ on a listener’s forehead.”

Schloff says the acronym stands for “Why Am I Talking?” and is helpful in making the garrulous speaker to hush their mouth. When I’m coaching, I use “WAIL,” but on the speaker’s forehead. My acronym stands for “Why Am I Living?”

If neither of these approaches work, both speakers and listeners can use  “WAIWASSOMF?” “Why Am I Wearing A Stupid Sign On My Forehead?”

That always works.

Problem talkers may also “boast too much without substantiation.” This is the opinion of recruiter Ellen Kinlin who described an overly braggadocios person who “told me three times in the first 15 minutes how smart he was.”

It is difficult not to flap your lips in a job interview. You are just so wonderful and fascinating, you convince yourself that nobody would want to miss a word. And that’s true, as long as nobody is your mom.

With hiring managers, how magnificent you are may not override how annoying you are. Besides, no one would ever believe you are smart, especially you.

One opinion shared by all the consultants and coaches is that if you are talking too much, you are listening too little. Hartmann believes that masterful communicators “spend far more time using their ears than their voices.”

Long talkers are advised to ask questions, a technique you should try. After all, any question can spark an answer that will allow you to talk even longer.

If you’re wondering about a 12-step program for curing talkaholicism, you’re flat out of luck. When talkaholics get to step No. 9, make amends, they’re so verbose that their victims run out of the room. This leaves life hacks, like covering your mouth with plumber’s tape before you interview. Or you can lock yourself in a closet for a week with a 24-hour talk radio station, and let the endless babble destroy what’s left of your cerebral cortex.

Will talk therapy keep you from talking too much?

I really don’t want to talk about it.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at


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