Here are three main reasons I’ve found women over-explain, plus three ways to knock it off:
1. You don’t believe you’re worthy. When you follow your admirable ask with a string of qualifiers, you are sharing all of your self-doubt with the other party. It is normal and healthy to suffer bits of insecurity and self-question. But just because a script is running through your head does not mean you need to read from it – aloud and to your boss. Keep those feelings inside. Push them deep, deep down and do not let them bubble up until you are in the safe confines of the company of a good friend, boyfriend or therapist.
2. You’re terrified of silence. Years ago I read a profile of a famous old-school New York City newspaper reporter known for getting everyone and anyone to spill their deepest secrets. His secret? Sit across a table from them in dead silence. Not a peep. For minutes and minutes and minutes. The silence was so excruciating that eventually the source would burst, and out streamed juicy answers to unasked questions. The takeaway? People find silence so threatening that they prefer to risk public humiliation, imprisonment, or – in your case – shameful negotiating rather than stew in the unknown of quiet.
Why? When your boss, partner, vendor or client is collecting her (or his) thoughts, you start to fill the void with stories. You tell yourself: She thinks you’re a nincompoop, crazy to ask for so much! He thinks you’re greedy! The whole team is sitting in a circle, tossing their heads back and clenching their guts in a bout of hysterical laughter at your expense!
These thoughts are just that: stories you tell yourself. You don’t know what is going on at the other office or in the other party’s mind. Maybe in that silence the other person is scurrying to find more room in his budget to accommodate your ask. Maybe she is dumbfounded into an impressed speechlessness at your confidence and the apparent demand for your services. Or, maybe — maybe nothing is happening at all. Maybe your ask is simply way down on the other party’s to-do list and they mostly forgot about you.
3. You care too much what other people think. Not a week goes by when I don’t get an email like this – 99 percent of the time from a woman: “Hi! Sorry! Can we reschedule our meeting? I have six deadlines, my cat is going for surgery and I have the worst yeast infection EVER.”
So now you know why you’re guilty of over-explaining, here is how to nip this nasty habit in the bud.