I have several interesting personality quirks. Most of them were created years ago because I felt I was being misunderstood. (Only Trent knows how I feel!)
Now that I am all grown up and making my way through the world at a far slower and quieter pace than I was in my 20’s there are a few things I found were not serving me anymore. Plus I have a friend who kept telling me I needed to stop this one thing and then that therapist I fired mentioned the same thing in the first ten minutes of that first session and I realized they were right. I can be a little slow sometimes.
I finally agreed with my friends and family. I needed to ditch my constant overexplaining.
If you explain things more than is necessary you should drop the habit too. Here’s why.
People Wonder What You Are Trying To Tell Them
If you’re anything like me you overexplain because you want to make sure the other person knows your position and doesn’t accidentally give it a tone or underlying meaning you were not trying to put there. The problem is, the more things you exclude, the more the other person is wondering what you’re really trying to say. Instead of making your point clear, you’re basically convincing the other person you have a hidden meaning they just haven’t figured out yet. It turns a simple statement into a treasure hunt for the other person.
I think this will be the only blog post ever where a Shakespeare quote is appropriate. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The more you say, the more people start to wonder if they should be taking any of it seriously. It’s not a good scene for you or the person you are talking to.
Using more words should not be a go-to for clarity. I have chosen to try and use the right words the first time instead of all the words in stream-of-consciousness style.
My great grandmother used to say, “It is easier to be good than to be simple.” If you have to use four paragraphs to explain why you don’t like cats, you are being good at explaining but you are not being simple. It’s okay to not like cats (or dogs, or gerbils, or badgers, or serial killers) and to just say so. Everyone has preferences and yours are probably valid ones. Just go with it.
You Seem Really Stressed
Another side effect of overexplaining is the person you’re doing this to starts to wonder if you think they’re stupid. They may even wonder what you think is wrong with them that you keep going. Worst case they start to think you think they are stupid and can’t understand simple statements without pages of backup explaining. There are no positive side effects to overexplaining. You seem like you can’t find your point and are really stressed about it. You make other people feel stressed. It’s bad news for everyone.
Also, the confused looks you get from people as you are overexplaining may lead you to actually be more stressed because you don’t know if they’re really getting what you’re trying to say. This may lead to further explaining and even more confused looks until you just stop mid sentence and give up. I’ve done this more times than I can count. I felt like I was just talking until there was nothing more to say about my feelings on the subject and then I would just … stop. It was a conversation killer like no other.
I am not a fan of uncomfortable silences I create with my word babble. Sure there are still occasional uncomfortable silences in conversations now – they’re just a natural part of conversation – but knowing I did not cause it to happen makes it much more bearable to smile through those moments.
It’s Not Necessary
My favorite reason to stop explaining everything to death is the sheer pointlessness of the whole mess. At the end of the day, “I don’t like dogs.” and, “I don’t like dogs because one bit me when I was six but I’m sure your dog isn’t like that and honestly maybe I would like dogs and I’m not saying anything about people who do like dogs it’s just not for me but someday maybe because I do love animals and I’d never be against dogs I just am not in a place right now where I would want a dog in my house but I’m sure if it was a dog like yours I might feel differently about it.” are the same thing.
If you say you don’t like dogs and someone assumes you are a dog hating animal abuser? That’s not on you. That’s on them. In fact, I would go so far as to say you will learn more about other people when you stop filling in the silence for them. You will also discover that if you had people in your life that told you to stop overexplaining things that you will be dying inside when they do the same thing. You will want to call them out for it so bad because you will realize that everyone does this a little bit, you were just doing it a little more.
It becomes the word you see for the first time and then see ten times in the next week. It becomes a phenomenon you are above.
You will feel like a communication rock star.