I talked a lot in class. Probably too much. It’s very hard to gauge, and as a lecturer even harder to approach a student whose dominance in the discussion has become a problem. These three questions can serve as a barometre to evaluate whether you’ve gone from a helpful participant to a showboating peacock in any group setting, not just the classroom.
1. Is your contribution actually contributing to the discussion by developing someone else’s ideas or is it merely showing off that you know something others don’t?
If the former, be clear as to how your idea is related to the previous contributions without putting words in someone else’s mouth.
“What PERSON just said about SUBJECT made me consider X in a new way.”
You can repeat that phrasing like a mantra until it comes out spontaneously. If the latter, no one likes a know-it-all, so bite your tongue.
2. Is your contribution likely to interest anyone other than yourself and the professor or discussion leader?
One can safely assume that anyone enrolled in a class on the Crusades is interested in the Knights Templar, but be aware of both the eccentricity of tastes and the specifics of your audience. In other words:
Avoid talking at length about how beautiful Michelangelo’s frescoes are to an audience that includes blind people.
It’s rude. All professors hold office hours (and most even know how to use email) — private chats about topics only of interest to you should happen in those private forums and not in front of a group of hostage listeners.
3. Have you spoken more than everyone else combined?
If the answer to this question is yes, it is time to SHUT UP. Your classmates are not paying to hear you talk. If your coworkers only wanted your input, they would have booked a one-on-one meeting. Your friends want to share their lives too. You can’t listen and speak at the same time. If no one else is talking at all (which sometimes happens and is the absolute worst as a professor or TA), you should still try to
Limit yourself to two unprompted contributions and, maybe, answering another two direct questions to the group that no one else jumps at.
How do you manage your inner chatterbox? What meeting habit of your coworkers’ drives you bananas? What strategies do you employ to ease the tension caused by an attention-seeking interlocutor?