Today’s question comes in from David in Boulder, Colo. He asks, “What do I do when I’m talking to my boss, and he seems to go on and on and on. Now, don’t get me wrong, because he actually has some pretty interesting things to say. I like what he’s saying, but it seems that he is not actually having any regard for his time or my time. What do I do?”
That’s an excellent question. There are two pieces to this. The first one is what type of boundaries are you actually setting to set up the conversation? The second piece is how do you have a conversation with someone to let him or her know that time is an issue?
First, when you set up a conversation with your boss, it would be great to say something like, “Hey David, I’m really excited to talk to you about how we’re going to schedule the off-site, how we’re going to man it, and what the logistics are. I’ve got from 2:00 to 2:30 on Wednesday to do that. Would that timeframe work for you?”
You have to get really clear in your engagement with the other person and make sure that upfront, even if it’s your boss and you feel a little bit intimidated, that you set clear boundaries and let him know what’s going to work for you. Now, if then your boss actually agrees to the time and you meet at 2pm, then you can always say at 2:30, “So it’s 2:30. I’m sorry to interrupt you [or] I’m feeling a little uncomfortable that I’m interrupting you; there’s another meeting that I need to attend.”
That’s how you set it up and check in during the meeting to let the other person remember that you had set up these boundaries in the beginning.
Second, is the other side of this, which is what do you do when someone is talking and talking on and on. In that exact conversation is probably not the time to address it. Address it when that’s not happening. Here’s an example. Let’s say someone had to say this to me, which actually my good friend Kathy sometimes does have to say to me, because I’m just so excited to be talking to her that I lose track of time. To have that conversation, it would sound something like this:
“Hey, Neha, I notice that when we get together, I really enjoy talking to you, and I notice that you get really excited and go on and on, and sometimes I check out. What I really want to happen is that I stay connected to you, and we have incredible conversations. Sometimes I even feel a little panicked because I think I might be missing my next engagement or my next meeting or whatever it is. I feel badly telling you that we have to cut it off. So would it work if at the beginning of our conversations, we had a discussion to put some timeframe around when this is going to start and when it’s going to end? That way we respect each other’s time and then I won’t feel that panic.”
If someone said that to me, I would probably say, “What a great idea because I feel so connected to you that I actually lose track of time. So thank you for telling me that, because I want our time together to feel good for both of us.”
So for those of you listening or reading, if someone in your life goes on and on and you don’t really know what to do, don’t know how to address the time issue, or you feel angst in your body telling you, I’ve got to say something, but I don’t know how, first, set boundaries at the beginning of a meeting and let someone know when the time is up. Then if they do go over, just say, “Hey, I’m feeling a little uncomfortable, but I want to let you know I need to get to another meeting” or whatever it is that you need to do next.
The second piece is to actually have the honest conversation with the person about the time issue in conversation—because it’s a lot easier to talk about people than to talk to them.
Send me your questions—drop me a tweet at #askdoctorneha or write your question and comments down below.
Your Awareness Prescription
- Set your conversation up for success by letting someone know how much time you have to talk (good communication requires clear boundaries).
- State the awkwardness of interrupting and remind the other person of the time.
- Communicate that you care about what they are telling you and reassure them that you heard what they are saying.