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are you overexplaining?

women using laptop

I recently made a decision, and I was confident about my choice. However, I knew it was going to be met with resistance by those who would be impacted by it.

When I shared my decision, I provided clear, sound, and thought-out reasons for why I made it. Still, I was asked for more justification.

So I doubled down. The next thing you know, I’m offering up a word salad of this and that, whys and why nots, pros and cons.

The result? I walked away from the situation confounded and full of self-doubt.

This is when I realized I’m a chronic over-explainer.

As a communications and content marketing expert, it’s my job to point out when information is running its course (like a never-ending scroll on a homepage with copy blocks that could be mistaken for essays).

The reasons why rambling on is a no-no seem obvious enough; if nothing else, you begin to confuse people and lose their attention. But sometimes, it takes personal life experience to crack the surface of what’s really going on.

Observing how a simple decision or statement can quickly spiral into chaos showed me exactly why overexplaining ourselves not only fails to provide clarity and attract some yawns — it’s detrimental to our connection with others. Here are some reasons why:

It feels anxious. There’s a certain degree of “pick-me energy” behind overexplaining that’s rooted in people-pleasing. This can make others perceive you as lacking focus and easy to manipulate.

It implies a lack of confidence. Unable to stand by your convictions, you show you have trouble trusting yourself. So, why should others feel comfortable trusting you?

It feels inauthentic. Overexplaining your reasons for something raises some eyebrows on the receiving end. Think about when a friend says they’re not feeling well and ditches your plans. If they’re truly sick, they’ll likely say it once, perhaps apologize for the inconvenience, and spend that time resting in bed. Someone who keeps apologizing might start to seem like they weren’t actually unwell, they just wanted to bail, and the overexplaining is an attempt to absolve their guilt.

To be clear, there’s a difference between being stubborn and refusing to overexplain. If a statement or decision you’ve made is met with resistance, dialogue is still important, and you’re allowed to change your mind.

But you can be open to a conversation while still avoiding the pitfalls of overexplaining. Here are three lessons my experience taught me:

Show instead of tell. There’s the person who goes on and on about how amazing of a cook they are, and there’s the person who cooks you an amazing meal. Be the latter. Use words to make a clear statement and then action to support it instead of being all talk, no walk.

Be your thing, not all things. Resist changing to be what people want you to be. This requires being intentional about what you believe in — a combination of your values, vision, and mission — and standing by it. If someone pushes back, you can engage in a conversation, but you’re not here to change everyone’s mind. Be ok with not being someone’s cup of tea.

Trust your gut. If you’re like me, you can overthink and overexplain anything into oblivion, playing a game of mental ping pong without ever landing on “the perfect words”, “the right decision”, or “the best business idea ever”.

Sometimes, it simply comes down to when you know, you know. Observe when it all becomes mental noise and trust yourself enough to move forward.

Have you been guilty of overexplaining? Quick tip to find out: read through your website or your last 5-10 emails and see where you could trim the fat on what you've written.

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