How to Know if You are a Fake Talker (Part 3)

Earlier in the year I identified 14 fake talk tactics (Part 1; Part 2) that people often employ that don’t improve the quality of our conversations. These were helpful in identifying a fake talker. Because some of you have repeatedly asked me for other examples, I have identified another set of behaviors that keep us from talking about what matters most.

What is important in considering these behaviors is to identify if you use any of them. Becoming more aware of what you are doing in conversation is the first step to improving the quality of your conversations, particularly if your conversations are not delivering the desired results. On the other hand, it is also important that you recognize what others may be doing so that you can take steps to improve how you communicate with these individuals to achieve the desired results.    

Here are seven additional Fake Talk characteristics you might encounter:

15.The Repeater tells the same story or point over and over again. They may do this because they feel strongly about a particular point they want to make or they want to be accepted. I have found that others tell the same story over and over again because they want sympathy for a certain situation in which that are embroiled. I have often wondered if people do this because others have not listened to them in the past. The key to understanding this type of communicator is the need to be heard and understood.

Results: It’s easy to become frustrated with these people and quit listening. On some level, these folks recognize that they are not being heard and continue to repeat themselves. This makes listening to them more difficult. 

What to Do: If a person repeats a point that they believe is important or needs consideration, you might ask questions that would help you identify the value that is hidden in what they want. Once you understand what is important to them, you can address it.

If I were speaking with someone who told me the same story repeatedly, I would point out that they had told me the story before, and then ask them if there was something specifically that they wanted me to do or comment on. If you take this tactic, don’t be surprised if they stop, think, and then just ask you to listen. Once you do this, you will probably not hear the story again.

16.The Commentator makes comments about everything that you say. They want to have the last word on things, so it is not uncommon for them to editorialize or to provide an analysis of what you are saying or proposing.

Results: People tire quickly of this communication behavior. This practice often serves as a veiled way of telling another person that they don’t agree. It is also is used to draw attention away from the original speaker to themselves rather than staying focused on the topic being discussed.

What to Do: Directly confront this behavior and ask the person why they feel that they have to comment about what you have said.  Be sure that your tone and delivery are respectful and that you hold this conversation in a spirit of kindness. Often they will apologize and state that they didn’t know that they were engaging in such behavior. Be clear that you don’t mind if they disagree or have something else to offer, but that you would appreciate them not adding their commentary if it doesn’t add anything to the conversation.

17. The Complementarian is constantly seeking validation. They fish for compliments. It wouldn’t be uncommon to hear them say, “I did a good job on your project, didn’t I?” or, “I look ok in this suit for my presentation, don’t I?” The problem with this tactic is that it makes it difficult to deliver constructive feedback if their performance was not what you wanted. One must overcome the presumption of positivity to deliver constructive feedback.

Results:This tactic makes it hard to deliver feedback, especially if you are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings or offending them, so people may just tell the person what they think that they want to hear.

What to Do:When dealing with someone who constantly is seeking validation, identify those things that they do well and be sure to verbally recognize their efforts. When they seek positive validation for something that they need to improve, then you need to give them the necessary feedback or they will never change their behavior.

18. The Victim blames others, the situation, or something else for the final outcome. It is a way of relieving themselves of any responsibility for the results that were achieved. In looking back at training evaluations over the years, it’s interesting to see that often when people submit a  low score they will say things like, “They were a difficult group,” “The room was too hot for the training, ”The books didn’t arrive in time for the event,” or “People asked questions that you didn’t adequately prepare me to answer.” Notice such stories blame me and a number of situations surrounding the event.

Results:These people see themselves as helpless on some level or they would make a more deliberate attempt to leave themselves out of the equation. The challenge is that sometimes they do not have an accurate picture of reality.

What to Do:  Asking questions can help these people to more clearly see the totality of an event and increase their perspective. For example, you might try some of these questions: “What results do you currently have?”, “How did you contribute to those results?”, “If you could do one thing differently that would create a different result, what would it be?”, and “What makes you say that would help?” Notice that these questions cause people to take a look at their behavior and to think about what they would do differently. Hopefully, the questions you ask will inspire some personal reflection and learning that otherwise might not take place. I often like to ask, “What part of you feels helpless?” and “Is that absolutely true?”

19. The Apologist uses frequent apologies to avoid responsibility for their performance or actions. They might say something like, “I am sorry that I missed the deadline on this. I guess I didn’t understand.” “I’m sorry, my kids made me late again.” “I’m sorry the report isn’t very good; I just can’t work with that person.” Often with these people, the apology becomes the substitute for results. It is great if the person sincerely apologizes for their poor behavior and then take steps to improve.  If they are constantly apologizing without improving behavior, then more action on your part is needed.

Results: If the apology is accepted without creating accountability to change behavior, then you will continue to get the same results.

What to Do: Examine the clarity of your directions. Explore what you need to do to make sure that you have been understood. Commit the person to take specific steps to improve their behavior and hold them accountable when they don’t comply.  

20. The Sycophant is constantly kowtowing to you, telling you what you want to hear, over-exuberantly supporting your ideas, or flattering you at every turn.

Results: The feeling being around these people is that they are so unauthentic that you can hardly stand to be in their presence.

What to Do: Often people use this tactic because they want something. When they begin to engage in this sort of activity, ask them what they want. You will force them to reveal themselves and then you won’t have to go through all of their verbal manipulations and guess what they are trying to get you to do.    

21. The Comedian tries to make everything humorous, even when not appropriate. Sometimes these people also use sarcasm in their conversations. Whether it is the use of humor or sarcasm, you may be left wondering what they are really saying or meaning because the meaning of their message is often veiled.

Results: These types of communications often result in confusion because their messages are mixed. Their words communicate one thing, but their tone and nonverbal behavior may mean something else. These people are fun to be around, but their messages could be misinterpreted.

What to Do: Ask them what they mean. Ask for examples, data or evidence to substantiate their interpretations or opinions. When you are in doubt, don’t assume anything, ask for clarification and understanding.

There may be other any number of other behaviors that people employ that don’t produce the desired results in a conversation. Interestingly, folks often use fake talk behaviors because they perceive that they work, or they wouldn’t use them. The real question we ought to ask ourselves is, “Does the way we communicate create respect, build our relationships, and achieve results?” If not, then give some of these suggestions a try. They might just make all the difference.