Have you ever been trapped in a conversation where the other person is over explaining, with no end in sight? How does it make you feel?
You may feel annoyed or even like the person is over explaining because they think you are stupid.
Or are you the person who is always over explaining?
Over explaining creates the exact opposite of what we are trying to accomplish!
It leaves others in the conversation:
- Thinking about something else
- Planning their rebuttal or reply
- Wondering how to stop you from going on and on and on….
- With an impression that you lack self-confidence and strategic thinking.
If you suffer from low self-esteem or people-pleasing, you may have an almost compulsive need to over explain.
Over explaining means describing something to an excessive degree, whereas oversharing is the disclosure of an inappropriate amount of information and detail about your personal life.
Some reasons driving you to over explain:
One: You might be doing this to keep yourself safe.
Over explaining is a common response for those who were often made to feel at fault as a child. At one point, the desire to please people provided safety. Now it has turned in to you defending yourself at every turn, justified or not. It has affected your ability to trust yourself and feel confident.
Two: You’re trying to avoid conflict, keep the peace and control the other person’s response.
It’s uncomfortable to be around someone who is angry or hurt or disappointed. If you’re giving someone information you fear they won’t like, it’s tempting to pile on explanations.
You believe if you can give a compelling enough reason for your choice, you can ensure the other person will see things your way. If you have enough solid reasons for your choice, maybe they won’t take it personally and be hurt.
Maybe if you can make them understand, they will still like you.
Three: You’re looking for someone to validate your decision.
You may feel the need to justify yourself or your decisions to make someone accept who you are and how you think because you are insecure about your choices.
While it doesn’t feel great to have people disagree with you, if you are confident about your own choices, you’re less impacted when someone doesn’t agree with you.
On the other hand, if you are unsure about your decision, you often look to others for reassurance. You over explain in the hope that the other person will understand and come around to your point of view. Often, it’s not really about the other person changing their mind as much as it is about needing external validation for your own choices.
Four: You’re trying to ease your own feelings of guilt.
Choosing something another person might not like can prompt feelings of guilt. When you feel guilty about your decision, you often turn to explanations an excuses to convince the other person and yourself that you have a very good reason for choosing the way you did.
You may believe, whether you realize it or not, that other people’s wants, needs, and feelings are more important than your own. This is a clear people-pleasing behavior.
You believe saying no or declining an invitation is selfish or rude. You think that to be kind, generous, and likable you must be unfailingly agreeable and accommodating.
Explaining doesn’t come with a set of rules, but,
Here’s a 3-step formula I use for crafting responses that are simple, kind and to-the-point.
Step 1: Get Clear about your intentions.
Why do you really want to explain? Spoiler alert: If it’s any of the 4 reasons above, you do NOT want or need to over explain.
Who do you want to be in this situation? Do you want to make the other person feel stupid? Do you want them to be annoyed? Or, do you want to be respectful of their time?
Step 2: Keep it simple.
Longer explanations don’t necessarily bring greater understanding. What is the most important thing you want the other person to know?
Step 3: Be Kind
Lead with gratitude. Then state your decision in as few words as possible. Finally, wish them well.
Here’s an example of how to decline an invitation without over explaining:
“Thanks so much for thinking of me! I won’t be joining you this time, but I hope you have lots of fun.”
Here’s another example on cancelling a membership to a mastermind group:
“Thank you for having me as part of this group. I’ve decided to cancel my membership at this time. Wishing you and the group continued success.”
Isn’t that way simpler and kinder than a string of excuses or agreeing with resentment?
This takes practice. Our *explanation habits* won’t change overnight. Take the time you need to get clear on your intentions and think through how you really want to respond.
Remember, if someone doesn’t ask for more explanation, it’s a clear sign they don’t want one.
Don’t forget to grab your free confidence building guide.