In important business settings, many A-types suffer a serious physical problem: we cannot stop our mouths from moving until our point is completely and convincingly made. Any fewer words, we reason, and we’ve failed to fully persuade. Hence the penchant to keep talking until we consider our points completely and convincingly made.
There’s just one problem. The individuals around us often agree to our point well before we consider it convincingly made. We often keep talking because we feel the need to do so—not because we actually need to do so. Overcoming the temptation to keep talking can make life substantially more negotiable.
To see why, imagine yourself making an important business decision with two other members of your organization. You’ve been discussing the issue for awhile, and a set of substantially differing opinions have emerged. But you now find yourself on the soapbox, with an important and impressive line of reasoning that should take the discussion to its obvious and compelling conclusion. About halfway into your logical tour de force, however, your counterparts feel the irresistible sway of your reasoning and unexpectedly agree to your recommendation. Do you stop talking and decide move on? Most of us A-types would not, finding ourselves unable to conclude our comments without taking them to their logical conclusion.
What’s the harm in continuing to talk? Well, I see three big risks:
- They might get annoyed. Continuing to talk creates the serious risk that your counterparts may grow increasingly irritated with your monologue and distinct lack of listening ears. “Why does this guy keep talking? Didn’t he hear us agree?”, they might wonder, checking their watches and reiterating their agreement with increasing levels of urgency. So you might drive your counterparts crazy by continuing to talk.
- You might undermine your argument. Is it possible that Clause H, sub-clause IV, sub-bullet 16 in your complex and nuanced line of reasoning might somehow undermine your overall point? Sure as we all are in the airtight nature of our own reasoning, there’s always the possibility of a logical contradiction or at least a compelling counterargument lurking in the shadows of our own reasoning. So you might undercut your logic by continuing to talk.
- They might change their mind. Even if you don’t undermine your own argument—even if the argument, in all of its rhetorical force, fully supports your point—there’s always the possibility that your counterparts might inexplicably change their minds. Humans being humans with minds being minds, there’s always the chance that people given the time to think will decide to change course. So you might actually undermine the emerging consensus by continuing to talk.
In sum, we A-types face the distinct challenge of knowing when to declare victory and move on, even when the full force of our intellect has not been fully revealed. Though difficult and disappointing given the full sweep of our intellect, accepting other people’s agreement can ultimately win us more battles—that being the ultimate goal of our intellect.