Are you a fast talker?


When you are passionate about something, or nervous, doyousoundsomethinglikethis? While it can be a hilarious Seinfeld episode, it isn’t so funny when it has a negative impact on your career. 

Fast talkers are often fast thinkers. They go from A to Z at warp speed, leaving everyone else struggling to keep up. If the fast talker is a manager, or a project leader, that can spell trouble. The fast talker is so busy solving the problem, or connecting the dots, that the rest of the team can’t process it fast enough. Their teammates can’t collaborate because they can’t get a word in. They don’t want to look stupid, so they don’t admit their ignorance, and they won’t interrupt to take a different position…often because it isn’t worth it. The fast talker will jump on their ideas and take off running—usually to justify their own position. 

Fast talkers usually aren’t good listeners. They tend to think out loud, so their brains are filled with all the data and scenarios they are piecing together—while their mouth keeps moving to get it all out. Their brains are so full of what they want to say, there isn’t much awareness that others want to make a contribution, too. In a social situation, you can butt in and wrestle control of the situation with a little light humor. If the fast talker is your boss, or boss’s boss, most people will not interrupt. 

Some fast talkers are insecure. They are so worried they won’t be seen as credible, or in charge, they overcompensate for their fears by sucking all the air out of the room, to show how smart they are, or how well they have the situation in hand. Unfortunately, all they succeed in doing is annoying the people around them.  

Some people talk fast when all the attention is on them—when they are making a presentation for example. They don’t like the limelight and just want to get the presentation over as fast as possible. Unfortunately, an audience needs time to assimilate the points, examine the slides and think about the ideas being presented.

Fast talkers aren’t effective speakers. They wear out their audience—listening to a fast speech is exhausting. 

So, if you are a fast talker, what can you do? 

Imagine the spotlight is on your audience, instead of on you.

  • In a meeting, ask other people to own some agenda items, and run that part of the meeting. You become a participant, and step back to let the other person take control of that discussion item. Then bite your tongue and let them have the floor.
  • Change your mindset from running a meeting, to facilitating it. Watch the dynamics to see who is speaking and how much. Pull out quieter members and ask, “What do you think about that Charlotte?” “What do the rest of you think?” “Let’s hear from some of you who haven’t said much on this topic. We need to know what everyone thinks about it.”
  • Ask questions, instead of making statements. Instead of, “I think we should go tell Marketing to improve the booth for the trade show,” it would generate more two-way dialogue to ask, “How do you think we should approach Marketing…?”
  • Master the art of paraphrasing. Good listeners are excellent paraphrasers. I don’t mean the stereotypical, “I hear you saying…” which can come off as forced, and even comical. I’m referring to truly deep listening; where you are so tuned in to what the other person is saying, you haven’t been forming a response or a rebuttal while they were talking. You are naming the emotion they are demonstrating, or putting their idea in your own words, along with your affirmation about why they may be thinking that way.
  • If you are doing a formal presentation, inserting questions every few minutes can slow you down and reduce nervousness. It also allows your audience to interact with you—which makes your presentation so much more interesting. Even saying something as simple as, “Does this make sense?” will quiet the butterflies when you get heads nodding.  One of the ground rules I use when I’m in front of a room, is “Don’t tell the audience what they can tell you.” People love to talk about what they know. So for example, if you want to discuss the preferences your customers have for a certain product or feature, ask the audience what they have heard from their customers, instead of telling them what they already know. Instead of you doing all the talking, you will put their knowledge in the spotlight. The more you let them talk—the more credible they think you are. 

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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