I Talk Too Much…So Ask More Questions

I just got off the phone with someone who has a lot more experience in a particular area of leadership that me. It was a humbling and important conversation for me. He pointed out a couple of my blind spots. Fortunately, I was in a healthy frame of mind, and receptive to his suggestions. Upon reflection, here are a few of my observations.

  1. How open am I to feedback? It’s critical that my attitude is wide open to suggestions, criticism, and new ideas. If I’m projecting some sort of judgement about the comments as they’re coming to me, I could miss some real gems of learning.
  2. Am I really listening? When I’m listening intently to someone (here’s the key) and taking notes at the same time, I’m not really listening at the highest level. What’s really going on is that I’m focused on note taking, so my mind is actually “toggling” between what’s being said and what I’m writing, thus making me susceptible to missing all of the subtle nuances of multi-sensory conversation. We don’t really multi-task…we toggle.
  3. I talk too much, period. When I’m having a conversation, while I’m doing the talking, I rarely learn anything. Asking questions about the other person’s interests, dreams, concerns or goals creates a much more interesting dynamic…and the other person feels heard and respected. People rarely get to talk freely about what they’re passionate about.
  4. W.A.I.T. = Why am I talking? I learned this helpful acronym from a friend just yesterday. I have a tendency when someone says something interesting to want to add a “yes, and me too…” . What if I were to just say, “And why was that important?” or “What do you think you’ll do with that learning?” Resist the inclination to “one up” the person with your story. Let it be about them.
  5. Stop solving problems. When a friend or colleague shares a problem, I'm not sure advice is really what they need or want. Perhaps what they really want is to be heard, understood, or shown empathy. Life can be hard, so just be with them and show concern. Plus, people rarely take and own the advice that’s given them. They need most to be responsible for their life situations. So ask them questions about what they’re learning, how they’re going to respond to the problem, or what’s most important for them to do next?

I’m grateful for the people in my life who have experiences and skills that are different from mine and are willing to share them with me. They’re helping me to create a story ending for my life that is far richer and more meaningful than I’d ever imagined.

What’s something you’ve learned recently that’s been a game-changer for you?



If you struggle for the right questions to ask, rather than give advice, here are a few conversation starters. And remember, you don’t have to answer the questions.

Top Ten Questions for the day.

Notice that each question starts with “what.” What questions have two important components: 1) the questions don’t feel judgmental and 2) they’re open ended, so they elicit conversation and thinking.

  1. What is it that you really want?
  2. What does that feel like for you right now?
  3. What do you know you can trust in yourself?
  4. What about that is important to you?
  5. What are you pretending not to know about this situation?
  6. What about this (decision) most aligns with your values?
  7. We’ve covered a lot of ground today…so what’s next?
  8. What’s the main lesson in this for you?
  9. What is possible?
  10. What if you did…?


This blog shares my perspective on how we have the ability to create new endings to our stories that are meaningful, powerful and filled with hope. I facilitate transformational change processes helping organizations achieve maximum mission impact. Also, I provide leadership coaching to help executives and aspiring leaders become the fullest expression of who they’re intended to be. @beckerbits #talktoomuch