I was thinking the other day about a pet peeve of my late father who complained about people who talked too much. He described the malady as “people who are fascinated with the sound of their own voice.”
Have you ever gotten a call from telemarketers, usually around dinner time, who read from a prepared script to try to sell you everything from encyclopedias to aluminum siding? Even when you try to break in to tell them you’re not interested, they usually press on with their script. Until you hang up.
Have you ever received a call from a friend or relative who you haven’t heard from in ages? They tell you everything that’s going on in their lives and conclude by saying something like, “well, nice to talk with you” and then say “good-bye” – without ever asking how you are doing.
The champions at being fascinated by the sound of their own voices are, of course, politicians. President Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention the other night lasted about an hour and a half.
In 1988, then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas gave a nominating speech for Michael Dukakis that lasted so long that when Clinton said, “And in conclusion,” the audience applauded.
I have fallen victim to this same disease, and I’ll bet you have, too. Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and you started to say something – and suddenly you wished you could reach out and grab those words and shove them right back into your mouth?
Turns out, there is an acronym that serves as warning to us -- WAIT -- which stands for “Why Am I Talking?” The actor Tom Hanks mentioned the WAIT factor on a television talk show earlier this year but it actually dates back a few years.
In 2015, The Empowerment Dynamic (acronym TED), a business-oriented web site published an essay on WAIT in which it used a car salesman as its example.
TED also offered three questions we all should ask ourselves before we speak.
- Am I talking to gain approval?
- Am I talking to control or take charge of a situation?
- Am I talking just to whine or complain?
Speech consultant Tom Barrett, writing in 2018, offered two pieces of advice to help all of us stay out of trouble. He said:
- Don’t jump in and finish someone else’s sentence for them – particularly if the person you’re cutting off is your wife.
- Never try to top someone else’s comments with some riveting story of your own.
In the hundreds of public meetings I’ve covered over the years, I’ve seen plenty of instances in which I wish the speaker had used the WAIT protocol.
There was a fellow a few years ago who spoke seemingly endlessly during the televised public forum portion of City Council meetings and yet had little of substance to say.
After one such meeting, I asked him why he appeared week after week at the public forum with his long diatribes. He said, “Because my wife gets a kick out of seeing me on television.”
Do you know of anybody who has been described in this column? Are you guilty of any of the infractions?
Back to more serious stuff next week. I just felt like we all could use a break.
John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.
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