At some point over your career, you've probably lain awake at night rehashing your shortcomings after a tense meeting or tough negotiation session.
You may have realized that there was a moment you missed when instead of knowing when to accept "yes," you talked yourself into trouble by dragging out a discussion that could have ended sooner. "I should have just stopped talking when things were going well, before it began to get muddied."
Don't you wish someone would flash you a sign, like the "Applause" signs on live TV tapings, that says "stop talking" when the time is right? And you know you'd like to show that sign to others, wouldn't you?
I've developed my own way of knowing when to stop talking; it's based on something an experienced CEO once said to me (guess that's why she gets paid the big bucks):
"As soon as you reach an agreement, stop talking immediately and move on to the next thing. If you keep discussing the issue, the other person starts to think there must be more points of disagreement to find and talk about, and they might just talk themselves right out of the agreement you worked so hard for."
So, an example: If you're trying to get someone to commit to a date and location for an event, be ready with the pros and cons, and the argument in favor of what you want. Be fully present in a loving and respectful way with the other person--by which I mean, look at the person you're having the discussion with, really hear his or her own arguments and questions, and fully respond to them. Then, when you reach the compromise, capitulation (yours or theirs), or middle ground, stop. You're there. "Arrived at destination," as your GPS would say. Don't keep going--not even another step.
Yep, just stop.
How do I know when we're there? Go back to what I just said (you were listening actively, right?), which is: "Be fully present." "Really hear." "Fully respond." If you're doing all of that with your meeting or conversation partner, you will know when you are both on the same page.
Really, it's quite exhilarating to streamline your discussions this way. No more self-justification, no more apologizing for your point of view, and no more strong-arming people until they not only capitulate but pretend to agree with you just to avoid conflict.
Yes, it takes practice, presence, and patience. And as you may know by my other columns, books, and speeches, I'm convinced that love is a good business practice. If you care enough about everyone you debate with to take them seriously, then meet them as close to halfway as you can and stop talking when you've reached your destination.