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post #1 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 07:37 PM Thread Starter
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Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

I know a lot of the board here has some natural skill in navigating tricky communication. This is not in regards to my marriage but rather an employee of mine.

He is a good employee, has been working with the company for one year and came in at entry level... had previous experience in a slightly related field, but different enough that he needed to go through extensive training when he joined us to learn the ropes. That is fine, btw, and all that I look for as a manager is a good attitude and a desire to learn. If you've got those two things we can make it work. He's definitely got those two qualities.

The only issue I have with him is that his listening skills are poor. I don't mean that he is insubordinate... he is not... it's just that when we are talking in conversation (about something work related) he tends to interrupt a lot and interject things. He can talk and go on long tangents that require me to steer the conversation back to its original point. I often end up repeating myself and asking him to confirm he heard and understood what I just said... which then makes him realize that he didn't absorb what I said and we go over it again.

This doesn't always happen, but most often happens when the subject is a bit "charged", such as talking about a deadline or asking a question about a decision he made. I don't think I am a hard ass by any means, but it is quite obvious that I make him nervous, and I think his nervousness clouds his mind and he turns into a rambling mess. My questions/discussions with him are completely neutral in tone and not disciplinary in nature at all... but I can tell I make him uncomfortable. This is worse when we have to talk on the phone, rather than face to face. He works at various job sites all over the state and is not always in our home office, so while I prefer face to face meetings it is not always possible. Honestly, I've come to dread calling him because it's difficult to have a productive conversation with him over the phone.

There are quite a few big issues going on with the company as a whole that I need to discuss with my staff, and that I need to make sure they understand. Some of the issues have to do with changing some of the protocol that my staff are used to, and beginning to do things a different way. I would like this discussion to be positive and productive, but I am concerned with this guy in particular that he's only going to hear it as criticism (when it's not), and that he will become defensive and talk over me without hearing what I say.

When he talks over me, I usually smile and let him finish his sentence, then begin talking again. I have also tried "So what I hear you saying is..." and paraphrasing what he just said... all he does then is say "Yes that's correct AND..." as he adds a few more things without pausing for a breath!

I've never had to deal with someone who does this before, so I'm out of my element. Any tips that I could use to help us communicate more effectively?




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post #2 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 08:16 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

When necessary Ive politely interrupted the person back saying time was short and I want to finish my thoughts so please hold your comments or questions until Im done. Depending on the importance of the topic I follow it up with an email summarizing (and memorializing) the conversation. I think this is especially important in conference calls.

When really difficult people interrupt I give them one or two chances, then I bludgeon them with my metal Swingline stapler on each subsequent interruption.

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post #3 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 09:41 PM
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It is 2018, can you use some other means of communication instead of the phone when he is not in person? Text? IM? Email? Sometimes it is very hard to hear on the phone, even a landline, which means stepping on each other. Just write it out and save the hassle. And then it is in writing, clear and something you can both refer back to.

In person you need to stop smiling and letting him continue. Hold up your hand and say “I am going to stop you right there”. Neutral tone. I had an employee who I adored, older woman than me. She was defensive about everything, everything! And I didn’t blame her - she also had to work with my boss. Her communications skills are awful and made you feel like a puppy that just **** the couch no matter what the neutral subject. I had just grown a thicker skin to it. So she would start explaining in minute detail who said what and who did what - I would hold up my hand and say “Stop. We are in solution mode. We will circle back to why later. What can we do to address this issue now”. And I always did circle back.

For the important changes you have going on I would suggest a group presentation if possible. Do a PowerPoint on what is changing and why. Include that there will be growing pains with the changes but there will be benefits, to them and the company, in the long run. Offer to address questions during the group meeting and individual concerns privately. Everyone might grumble but he will be less likely to filibuster in a group.

He is a good employee that needs some refinement. He needs that from you as his manager. Stop his anxiety in its tracks with being assertive and confident, not smiley and nice.
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post #4 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 09:46 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

If you're trying to train this guy to supervise other people, then his communication skills (and propensities) need an overhaul. Imagine how he will treat an underling who is trying to deliver bad / emergency / life or death type of news.

Kag123, are you a woman? Do you think he only treats women the way you describe. I agree with @Blueclues, you don't have the luxury to be nice to him. By now, he may think that it's ok to dominate you. Tell him you have 3 points to make and then don't let him interrupt you.
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post #5 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 09:51 PM
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Cool Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kag123 View Post
I know a lot of the board here has some natural skill in navigating tricky communication. This is not in regards to my marriage but rather an employee of mine.

He is a good employee, has been working with the company for one year and came in at entry level... had previous experience in a slightly related field, but different enough that he needed to go through extensive training when he joined us to learn the ropes. That is fine, btw, and all that I look for as a manager is a good attitude and a desire to learn. If you've got those two things we can make it work. He's definitely got those two qualities.

The only issue I have with him is that his listening skills are poor. I don't mean that he is insubordinate... he is not... it's just that when we are talking in conversation (about something work related) he tends to interrupt a lot and interject things. He can talk and go on long tangents that require me to steer the conversation back to its original point. I often end up repeating myself and asking him to confirm he heard and understood what I just said... which then makes him realize that he didn't absorb what I said and we go over it again.

This doesn't always happen, but most often happens when the subject is a bit "charged", such as talking about a deadline or asking a question about a decision he made. I don't think I am a hard ass by any means, but it is quite obvious that I make him nervous, and I think his nervousness clouds his mind and he turns into a rambling mess. My questions/discussions with him are completely neutral in tone and not disciplinary in nature at all... but I can tell I make him uncomfortable. This is worse when we have to talk on the phone, rather than face to face. He works at various job sites all over the state and is not always in our home office, so while I prefer face to face meetings it is not always possible. Honestly, I've come to dread calling him because it's difficult to have a productive conversation with him over the phone.

There are quite a few big issues going on with the company as a whole that I need to discuss with my staff, and that I need to make sure they understand. Some of the issues have to do with changing some of the protocol that my staff are used to, and beginning to do things a different way. I would like this discussion to be positive and productive, but I am concerned with this guy in particular that he's only going to hear it as criticism (when it's not), and that he will become defensive and talk over me without hearing what I say.

When he talks over me, I usually smile and let him finish his sentence, then begin talking again. I have also tried "So what I hear you saying is..." and paraphrasing what he just said... all he does then is say "Yes that's correct AND..." as he adds a few more things without pausing for a breath!

I've never had to deal with someone who does this before, so I'm out of my element. Any tips that I could use to help us communicate more effectively?




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Any chance perhaps that maybe he's got adult ADHD?

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post #6 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 09:55 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

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Any chance perhaps that maybe he's got adult ADHD?
If so, then he has an option: get on adderall or risk getting a sucking chest wound.

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post #7 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 10:03 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

When hes out in the field, does he have access to email/text on his phone?

Have you tried sending him a bullet list of questions in advance? A short simple agenda. Ideally he could email you short, clear answers and then the call could be a clarification/confirmation activity.



Quote:
Originally Posted by kag123 View Post
I know a lot of the board here has some natural skill in navigating tricky communication. This is not in regards to my marriage but rather an employee of mine.

He is a good employee, has been working with the company for one year and came in at entry level... had previous experience in a slightly related field, but different enough that he needed to go through extensive training when he joined us to learn the ropes. That is fine, btw, and all that I look for as a manager is a good attitude and a desire to learn. If you've got those two things we can make it work. He's definitely got those two qualities.

The only issue I have with him is that his listening skills are poor. I don't mean that he is insubordinate... he is not... it's just that when we are talking in conversation (about something work related) he tends to interrupt a lot and interject things. He can talk and go on long tangents that require me to steer the conversation back to its original point. I often end up repeating myself and asking him to confirm he heard and understood what I just said... which then makes him realize that he didn't absorb what I said and we go over it again.

This doesn't always happen, but most often happens when the subject is a bit "charged", such as talking about a deadline or asking a question about a decision he made. I don't think I am a hard ass by any means, but it is quite obvious that I make him nervous, and I think his nervousness clouds his mind and he turns into a rambling mess. My questions/discussions with him are completely neutral in tone and not disciplinary in nature at all... but I can tell I make him uncomfortable. This is worse when we have to talk on the phone, rather than face to face. He works at various job sites all over the state and is not always in our home office, so while I prefer face to face meetings it is not always possible. Honestly, I've come to dread calling him because it's difficult to have a productive conversation with him over the phone.

There are quite a few big issues going on with the company as a whole that I need to discuss with my staff, and that I need to make sure they understand. Some of the issues have to do with changing some of the protocol that my staff are used to, and beginning to do things a different way. I would like this discussion to be positive and productive, but I am concerned with this guy in particular that he's only going to hear it as criticism (when it's not), and that he will become defensive and talk over me without hearing what I say.

When he talks over me, I usually smile and let him finish his sentence, then begin talking again. I have also tried "So what I hear you saying is..." and paraphrasing what he just said... all he does then is say "Yes that's correct AND..." as he adds a few more things without pausing for a breath!

I've never had to deal with someone who does this before, so I'm out of my element. Any tips that I could use to help us communicate more effectively?




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post #8 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-27-2018, 10:26 PM
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Cool Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

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If so, then he has an option: get on adderall or risk getting a sucking chest wound.
Had a college history prof who called kids out for talking over him and not listening! Always asking them if they had ADHD or was just ignorant!

Hell of a good guy, but if you were going to interrupt him, either intentionally or unintentionally, you were literally taking your life in your own hands!

He knew exactly how to put you in your place! Either through the grade book or severe embarrassment!

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post #9 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 08:57 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

Hi All -

Thank you for the feedback. For clarification:

- He is not in a supervisory position himself and will not ever be, so he does not have anyone reporting to him.

- We use email and text to communicate with our staff in other offices, phone calls are for follow up and clarification. What usually happens with this particular employee is that I will send very clear bullet points via email and text and then he will call me to say he doesn't fully understand... asking for more in depth explanation on something. As a rule because of the nature of their jobs, I immediately answer all calls from my employees (their work can be dangerous at times and I never know if a phone call is something dire or something mundane... can't take that chance). He almost always calls me after I send anything in writing to discuss it further.

- He may have ADHD, I don't know, but I won't ask him or discuss that with him as truthfully it's not my business.

- Yes I am a woman, I do not know if this is how he treats all women... but I would not consider myself "smiley and nice" per se... I am blunt and tactful but certainly not overly friendly or nice lol. Some of the trouble seems to occur when he can tell I am not happy. It makes him incredibly nervous and he rambles when he is nervous!

- I will try the hand gesture and stronger language suggested.

- We will have all hands on deck meetings to discuss the changes that are occurring and he does not typically interrupt during meetings. The meeting will be a PowerPoint with documents to sign after along with copies to each employee after the meeting. I do say "we can speak individually after the meeting" as a follow up to discuss issues and he will always without fail be at my desk within 5 minutes of the meeting ending to rehash what we went over. Then the rambling/over talking/frustration begins. He asks for a lot of explanation and clarification even when things are in writing.

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Last edited by kag123; 06-28-2018 at 09:03 AM.
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post #10 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 11:06 AM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

Just from you description of his behaviors, I would guess that he almost certainly has ADHD or some other issue with executive functioning. It was probably either medicated or tolerated during his childhood and adolescence, so he was never taught the coping skills he needs in order to function effectively in the adult world. He may or may not also suffer from anxiety that might benefit from treatment. That's a shame, but it's also really not your problem, OP. It's certainly not your responsibility to fix.

Are these difficulties being reflected in his performance reviews? It may be time for a sit-down mentoring conversation with him regarding some of his more irritating habits. Whether that's with you, another staff member, or a third party from HR, will be something for you to decide based on your corporate structure and culture. But he does need to be made aware if/that his habits are compromising his ability to function effectively in his job. And that information, along with the steps you've taken to try and address the problem, also needs to be noted in case there are other larger problems in the future.


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post #11 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 11:38 AM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

What is the quality of the constant follow up questions? Do you find him asking the same question more than once? do other people at his level of development ask as many follow up questions?

Sometimes follow up questions can be aggressive moves. I've noticed that those who will talk over you will also assume what you are going to say next. This can be very dangerous as you may be accused of things that are simply not true spread by someone who does not respect you enough to listen to you.
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post #12 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 02:27 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

As an example...

He will come to me after a meeting or call me after an email and will say:

"I don't understand X, can you explain it to me?"

I will give a brief explanation and refer back to what is in writing. Before I've finished my sentence he will interrupt me to say:

"Oh I see, you want me to do Y? Ok well so and so does this thing and then we blahblahblah....."

... to which I will have to stop him from talking, correct him - "No, I want you to do Z. As it is written here in these documents. Not Y."

Then we circle back again. He will say "I'm still not understanding. Can you explain that again?"... and again as I talk he's taking off on some other tangent before I have finished.

It usually takes 4 or 5 circular discussions before he will truly understand what I am saying and confirm that he understands.

He means well, and once he understands he is fine and completes his job with no further issue. It's these circular discussions that drive me nuts.

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post #13 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 02:51 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

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Originally Posted by kag123 View Post
As an example...

He will come to me after a meeting or call me after an email and will say:

"I don't understand X, can you explain it to me?"

I will give a brief explanation and refer back to what is in writing. Before I've finished my sentence he will interrupt me to say:

"Oh I see, you want me to do Y? Ok well so and so does this thing and then we blahblahblah....."

... to which I will have to stop him from talking, correct him - "No, I want you to do Z. As it is written here in these documents. Not Y."

Then we circle back again. He will say "I'm still not understanding. Can you explain that again?"... and again as I talk he's taking off on some other tangent before I have finished.

It usually takes 4 or 5 circular discussions before he will truly understand what I am saying and confirm that he understands.

He means well, and once he understands he is fine and completes his job with no further issue. It's these circular discussions that drive me nuts.

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You're a saint. Most bosses would by now write this guy up saying that they have to explain too many times; spend too much time with the employee compared to other people at his level; does not follow directions and has poor listening skills.

Quote:
He will say "I'm still not understanding. Can you explain that again?"...
that would suggest to me that he's not up for the job. I would hurry up and do something. I've met a couple of people who were supervisors who said that they were blindsided by their employees who went over their heads to complain about them. He's probably telling your bosses that you don't know how to communicate.
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post #14 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 04:08 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

Some skills/quotes I like to use are:

"Sorry to interrupt, but for the sake of time we need to focus on this"
I've used this over 4+ times in some meetings when dealing with subject changers. These are typically people that have all these ideas but never implement any of them and are just waiting their turn to finally speak their mind.... Only to not do anything If we approve their request.

Another tactic is to just 'dismiss' everything they said, especially if they changed the subject and try; "Thanks Jim, but what I need to know specifically is XXXX" - Re-ask your original question a different way... kind of like a cop interrogating someone.

As for interrupting people.. You really need to just sit him down and tell him that its not proper etiquette to interrupt other people. Its not conducive to a healthy work relationship and you dont get to hear your other employees opinions.

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post #15 of 19 (permalink) Old 06-28-2018, 04:46 PM
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Re: Communicating effectively with someone who talks over you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kag123 View Post
I know a lot of the board here has some natural skill in navigating tricky communication. This is not in regards to my marriage but rather an employee of mine.

He is a good employee, has been working with the company for one year and came in at entry level... had previous experience in a slightly related field, but different enough that he needed to go through extensive training when he joined us to learn the ropes. That is fine, btw, and all that I look for as a manager is a good attitude and a desire to learn. If you've got those two things we can make it work. He's definitely got those two qualities.

The only issue I have with him is that his listening skills are poor. I don't mean that he is insubordinate... he is not... it's just that when we are talking in conversation (about something work related) he tends to interrupt a lot and interject things. He can talk and go on long tangents that require me to steer the conversation back to its original point. I often end up repeating myself and asking him to confirm he heard and understood what I just said... which then makes him realize that he didn't absorb what I said and we go over it again.

This doesn't always happen, but most often happens when the subject is a bit "charged", such as talking about a deadline or asking a question about a decision he made. I don't think I am a hard ass by any means, but it is quite obvious that I make him nervous, and I think his nervousness clouds his mind and he turns into a rambling mess. My questions/discussions with him are completely neutral in tone and not disciplinary in nature at all... but I can tell I make him uncomfortable. This is worse when we have to talk on the phone, rather than face to face. He works at various job sites all over the state and is not always in our home office, so while I prefer face to face meetings it is not always possible. Honestly, I've come to dread calling him because it's difficult to have a productive conversation with him over the phone.

There are quite a few big issues going on with the company as a whole that I need to discuss with my staff, and that I need to make sure they understand. Some of the issues have to do with changing some of the protocol that my staff are used to, and beginning to do things a different way. I would like this discussion to be positive and productive, but I am concerned with this guy in particular that he's only going to hear it as criticism (when it's not), and that he will become defensive and talk over me without hearing what I say.

When he talks over me, I usually smile and let him finish his sentence, then begin talking again. I have also tried "So what I hear you saying is..." and paraphrasing what he just said... all he does then is say "Yes that's correct AND..." as he adds a few more things without pausing for a breath!

I've never had to deal with someone who does this before, so I'm out of my element. Any tips that I could use to help us communicate more effectively?




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You both need training in communications skills.

Some outfits do this online.

Here are two examples:-

https://alison.com/course/effective-...s-for-managers
https://alison.com/course/introducti...ication-skills


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