You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth
  • Maggie Franklin
  • August 8, 2014

Maybe I notice it more with clients, seeing as how they’re sitting two feet away from me and all, but it amazes me how many people try to finish your sentences for you.

I’m not talking about those times when you get stuck for a word, or you’re quoting something, or just saying something insanely predictable — but those times when you’re engaged in ordinary conversation, telling someone a story about your personal life, for instance, and you realize the person sitting two feet from your face is actually attempting to “read along” with the story!

What is up with that? What bizarre miswiring of a person’s brain causes them to attempt to do this?

It’s weird. It’s distracting. And it sort of makes me want to just shut up and let them tell my story for me.

Of course, I don’t. Because a conversation with a client isn’t the appropriate situation for pulling rank of that sort. It won’t serve any positive purpose. I just keep talking — if I don’t lose my place because it’s so distracting.

What’s really distracting about this to me, is that I’ve recently noticed how many people are doing it. I’ve always had one client in my rotation that does this — sure, some people do it. But in the last few months I’ve noticed maybe four or five clients who do it. Which is a higher-than-usual percentage.

No. I am not telling the same stories over and over again!

Then, when I notice someone doing it, it makes me curious. I want to inquire about it. I want to interrogate my client and start asking, “Why do you do that?” “Do you even know you’re doing it?” “Does it help you pay attention?” “Am I using big words?” “Am I talking too fast?” “Are you having a hard time following along?” “Does it help you process the information?” “Are you having déjà vu?” “Are you reporting this to an alien overlord?” “Are you a spy?” “Do you think you’re psychic?”

Then I want to see how good they are at it. I speed up. I slow down. I use bigger words. I throw out totally random and unconnected stuff, trying to trip them up.

Before I know it, I’ve completely forgotten what I was saying because I’ve been so busy concentrating on them trying to recite with me.

It’s just such a fascinating thing that some people do. I wish I understood why they do it. But my guess is that they don’t even realize they’re doing it, and pointing it out to them isn’t going to win me any favors.

Keywords:   client relationships  

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