Verbal Kaopectate

by Joseph Kwon in


I suffer from an all too common affliction. I can be long-winded and even when I catch it, I can't always stop myself. I might notice the listener nodding politely, then see their eyes dart away, and finally...glaze over. At this point I'm pretty much just talking to myself! There is a name for this condition - Verbal Diarrhea.

The main problem with this condition can be neatly summed up by a poem my son learned at school. Seems like all I really needed to know really was learned in Kindergarten.

A Wise Old Owl
A wise old own sat in an oak,
The more he heard, the less he spoke;
The less he spoke, the more he heard;
Why aren't we all like that wise old bird?

I originally came up with the 5:30 rule to combat this. It meant limiting answers to 5 sentences and not talking more than 30 seconds at a stretch. However, my wife read a draft and her feedback was 5 sentences and 30 seconds is WAY TOO LONG. Besides being a remarkably perceptive woman, she is the primary casualty of my affliction so I was forced to take this on as important feedback. So instead I present the 3:10 Rule. No connection with the movie 3:10 to Yuma, although that does help me remember it.

The 3:10 Rule has 2 EZPZ techniques and a rhyme to help me remember.

3 - If asked a question, respond in 3 sentences or less. Once you do this, you realize that not many responses justify or require more. And in general people don't want to hear more.

10 - Pause naturally every 10 seconds you speak. Take a breath, look for cues about the listener's level of interest, and only if they want to hear more, proceed. You don't need to be taught what those cues are. If you are looking, you will know.

And a simple rhyme to help remember this.

Answer in 3,
It's not about me,
10 seconds no more,
don't be a bore.

Since I've started practicing this, I've learned a lot more about friends and family and had better conversations. Remember the 3:10 Rule - the EZPZ cure for Verbal Diarrhea.

For more tips on how to be a better listener, check out this informative article by Sarah Green.