This One-Minute Rule Will Make Your Conversation Better

Have you ever been in the middle of telling a story and noticed that at some point, everyone seemed to tune you out at once? According to a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, it’s probably because you were talking for too long and not paying attention to the “The Traffic Light Rule.”

The rule, created by Marty Nemko, says you have about one minute to speak your mind and then it’s time to turn the conversation over to someone else. Here’s Nemko summarizing “The Traffic Light Rule:”

“During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green: your listener is probably paying attention. During the second 30 seconds, your light is yellow—your listener may be starting to wish you’d finish. After the one-minute mark, your light is red: Yes, there are rare times you should “run a red light:” when your listener is obviously fully engaged in your missive.”

If you do love to talk a lot, it’s not really your fault. When you begin talking about yourself, Mark Goulston of HBR points out that your body releases dopamine, also known as the pleasure hormone. But never fear, there are ways to curb your bad habits.

A good rule of thumb for big talkers is to pay attention to your audience. If the person you’re talking to begins fidgeting, consistently interrupting you or literally trying to get away from you, you’ve gone too far, says Nemko. So try your hardest to check in on your audience after 30 seconds and especially after a minute. Happy chatting!

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