How to cut out rubbish from conversations

TO TALK OR NOT TO TALK? Speaking nonsense at work is a common problem, one that is understandable as there is pressure to contribute to the conversation, especially if you are in the presence of your boss.


    Dec 22, 2015

    How to cut out rubbish from conversations

    SPOUTING nonsense, engaging in idle banter and a favourite expression, "talking cock" - these are all phrases to describe a common work problem of young executives speaking nonsense. Old executives are just as capable of it, too.

    It is easy to understand. You feel under pressure to make a contribution to the conversation, but you have nothing useful to say.

    This pressure may be worse if you are in the presence of your boss or if other team members are looking to you to show some initiative.

    Some of us are responsive by nature. We feel the urge to fill a gap in the conversation or share an opinion, even if we have not had sufficient time to formulate our thoughts properly.

    How to stop talking rubbish is not easy. When someone is talking - especially the boss - your mind is doing two things at once.

    You are listening to the speaker and trying to unravel what he or she is saying. At the same time, you are trying to work on a brilliant riposte or come up with a clever idea that will enhance your career prospects.


    If you regularly find yourself spouting nonsense, even when you have not had a glass or two of wine, my advice is to focus on listening and avoid talking, except to ask questions.

    Not everyone can walk and juggle at the same time. When someone else is talking - especially a superior - try to listen proactively.

    Your superiors will at least think they have reached where they are through their experience and intelligence. Some of them will have acquired wisdom on the way. So what they are saying may well be sensible and worth your attention.


    You should never feel compelled to make a quick reply or to fill a pause. Take time to absorb what is being said and decide how to respond.

    If the speaker asks you a question and you have not quite decided how you would like to reply, delay your response by saying: "What you say is very interesting. Let me understand it, please."

    Then repeat back to your superior what he has said to you, not in exactly the words he uses but in a way that makes it clear you have - or have not - understood him. Bosses admire and promote those who take their wisdom seriously.


    If you are not rushed, you have more time to think clearly about the issue. If you have enough time, get on to the Internet to do further background research. You may want to jot down questions to ask the speaker or to verify what was said. Ask yourself questions such as "Is what was said true?", "What might be done about the issue?" or "How do I feel about it?"


    This last question on how you feel about an issue may be the most important, especially since people will want to know your opinion.

    On difficult issues, I try to trust my judgment. This does not mean reacting hastily or emotionally. But your instinct is usually better than you think. Try to articulate the rationale behind why you feel a certain way - the answer often lies there.

    These tips may add another few minutes before you are able to respond. However, the extra time to think through the issue clearly is worth it. And whether or not it leads you to the right answer, it will surely help you to stop talking cock.

    The writer is the founder mentor of Terrific Mentors International, an organisation that provides mentoring, coaching and training.