10 Tips to Avoid Sounding Like Charlie Brown’s Teacher | Improve Communication in Relationships

improve communication in relationships from charlie brown's teacherEver been told you should listen more?

To wait before you respond?

To just shut up and just pay attention for a second?

To stop sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher going wah-wa-wah-wa-wah…?

Solid advice, right?


Or that’s what someone named Elissa wrote to me after reading one of my posts about communication in relationships.

She argued “too much emphasis and blame is placed on a lack of listening skills when much of the breakdown lies with the talker.”

Elissa threw down the gauntlet, insisting I write a post about talkers!

I will take on your challenge, Elissa.

Elissa’s point about communication in relationships

In the aforementioned post, I asked:

Haven’t you noticed that lots of people who declare that they have great listening skills tend to:

  • Dominate conversations
  • Interrupt
  • Talk about themselves…a lot
  • Make assumptions about the other person
  • Give advice very quickly
  • Repeat themselves…repeatedly

Great listeners? Nope. These folks are great talkers!

Except, to Elissa’s point, some of these folks are horrific talkers!

Talking is a way to convey information. To share thoughts, feelings, ideas, and concerns.

Yet, we have all had the experience of talking with someone and realizing later they did not absorb our message.

Sometimes this happens because they’re poor listeners.

Other times, like Charlie Brown’s teacher, it is because we are lousy wah-wah-WAH talkers!

Elissa suggested I create a list of warning signs to help readers recognize if they are of the terrible talker variety.

Take a talking litmus test

If you recognize any of these signs in yourself take note. People probably tune you out from time to time. Like Lucy and the gang in class.

(Note: credit Elissa for the inspiration for the first four)

  • You’ve talked about the problems with your co-workers seven times already and begin again for the eighth time
  • You get unfocused and jump from topic to topic…never completely finishing any thought
  • Talk with food in your mouth
  • Your listener is not looking you in the eye…or yawning excessively
  • You check your text messages or Twitter feed while telling a story
  • You say the same thing five different ways from yesterday
  • You say the same thing five times in a row
  • You say “um” more than all your other words combined
  • You are monotone
  • You only talk to complain about something
  • It’s only and always about you

Be honest with yourself. Have you ever done one of these things (I have)?

The truth is one can be an effective communicator or an ineffective communicator. And the difference can have profound effects on relationships.

In the “listening” post I wrote how listening is a fundamental communication skill. Likewise, talking effectively is another one of those fundamental skills.

How to be a better talker…

If you want to be a more effective talker take stock of any of the following tips:

  • Decide what you want to say before you say it
  • Before repeating yourself ask the other person if they understand your point of view, even if that means asking them to tell you what they think you are saying
  • Remember that less is usually more (I love this advice I received early in my career)
  • Put your food and phone away, turn off the TV, and take out the ear buds
  • Practice talking with fewer ums, errs, and clearing of your throat

Or, take a page from Elissa’s book on communication in relationships (direct quotes):

  • Don’t take up precious solitudes with meaningless conversations
  • No one should have to take notes to connect your conversational dots
  • Look at the pupils of those listening. If they are rolling into the back of their heads, it’s probably time to take a rest
  • Keep an eye out for yawns. They are informative clues
  • If you’ve already said it, then please shut up about it. Reruns are boring on television and in real life

Gotta love her attitude!

Especially because she’s got a point. Imagine Charlie Brown’s success if his teacher had only been a better talker…


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About the Author ()

I help families resolve conflict through family mediation and divorce mediation in Massachusetts. My services include mediation for co-parenting disputes, marriage problems, separation and divorce, parents and teenagers, and family conflicts. The goal of my mediator's blog is to help teach or remind readers of helpful communication and conflict resolution techniques that can be used in their relationships. I live in Natick, MA with my wife, son and dog and mediate throughout the Metrowest Boston region. Please note that my name is spelled Ben Stich, not Ben Stitch.

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Comments (2)

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  1. Yeah Yeah, the most of the tips are obviously. I think that every common speaker, therapist and/or mediator do such things. Like the things you wrote about food and ear buds and looking at your conversationpartner. I really think we do not use that kind of tips. They are “open doors”.
    Otherwise the tip of not repeating yourself, but instead, ask the other to repeat in his of her own words what the meaning is of what you said in his or her life is a good tip. It will help your conversationpartner to do something with wat you said and the conversation becomes a two-way conversation instead of a monoloog. And I think when your conversationpartner is involved in the conversation he or she will remember the conversation because he or she was a part of it.
    And the other tip: Less is More! When you talk less you invite your conversationpartner to talk and again it becomes a conversation instead of a monologe.

    • Ben Stich says:

      I’m glad you thought two of the tips were helpful. Sadly, even though many of the tips are seemingly obvious — open doors — I see such mistakes happen in communication all the time. I see people at work talking while typing; teenagers talk with ear-buds in; folks who have difficulty making eye contact; and so on. This post is not written to advise mediators or therapists how to communicate — hopefully this is all self-evident for them (although I’d argue not always!) — but really meant to be a basic reminder for anyone having difficulty in a relationship to evaluate if the way they are communicating may be a culprit. This was inspired by one of my readers so certainly reflects her personal experiences! And I agree, I love the concept of Less is More! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Renata!

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