Rambling when you speak casts a negative shadow on you. It makes you sound unsure of yourself, undermining your authority. Your listeners have work to figure out what you mean, and often they simply tune out and ignore you. It is your responsibility to relay your message as clearly as possible if you want people to understand you.
Rambling is easy to identify. You have heard it; someone is asking you a question and you have to work to figure out what it is they want. It sounds like they are thinking out loud or voicing a stream of consciousness instead of knowing exactly what they want to say. Words fill the air space but do not communicate effectively. Examples of rambling include:
- “I was at dinner Monday night and … oh wait, I think it was Tuesday, [pause] no it was Monday.” Who cares? It is nothing more than noise 99.999% of the time. The day (or fact) you had dinner is usually irrelevant. This often happens when someone is trying to grab something to refresh his/her memory. Silence also works and doesn’t force the listener to figure out why they are hearing it.
- “I got the first set of numbers from Peter in Accounting, and then a second set from Richard. Then I had to reconcile the two sets so I calculated a third set based on Teresa’s month end report and ….” This is way too wordy and the thought is still incomplete. If you have to do a lot of digging to come up with the facts, say that and leave out any explanation. If they want more information they will ask. If they don’t ask, they are assuming you knew what you were doing.
I used to ramble. I can’t remember why; it might have been based in a fear of making a mistake or low confidence. Fortunately, I recognized that it was ineffective and annoyed a lot of people. I learned to clarify my speech.
This does not mean it is never okay to ramble. For example it can be a good way to build relationship, or be acceptable among friends in a casual setting. Be judicious before engaging in it.
3 Tips to Eliminate Rambling:
To tighten up your speaking and be more effective, consider these three tips:
- Know your purpose. Before you speak, ask yourself what you want to accomplish with your communication. Are you asking a question? Are you informing someone? Something else? Then ask yourself exactly what it is you want the other person to take away from your comments.
- Be clear and concise with your wording. Choose the right words and you will most likely need fewer of them. Eliminate the fillers and most of the adverbs. Keep it short and sweet. Connect the dots so people don’t make assumptions.
- Believe what you say. If you don’t believe it yourself, you will not be convincing. Plus, you are more likely to fish around for more words to try to cover your uncertainty.
The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.
Good communications are clear. As the speaker who is trying to communicate something, it is up to you to be as clear as possible so the listener hears what you want him/her to hear. Rambling always makes it less certain you will communicate effectively.