Managing a Motormouth: How to Get Them to Talk Less

Beth Miller |

We all have encountered this type of person: Someone who talks excessively, may repeat himself continually, and can’t get to the point.

In this age of sound bites, texting and tweets, it has become harder to tolerate the motormouth.  So how can you manage these individuals in a team meeting and also coach them in a one-on-one meeting to become more succinct in their communications?

In a team meeting
Set a tight agenda and use a countdown timer that is visible to everyone.  I use a free countdown timer that can be found at http://www.online-stopwatch.com. If you have regular weekly meetings, then at the beginning of each meeting institute a time limit of 3-5 minutes for each team member to give their weekly update.  It is important when instituting this new process that you explain your purpose for doing so.  It may be that you want to decrease the time spent in meetings or that you want everyone to learn and experience how to become more concise in their verbal communications.

Give the rest of the team the job of actively listening to each individual’s update and noting information that could have been left out as well as information that might have been repeated.  Typically the motormouth on the team will continue to talk after the bell rings signaling that their time is up.  There will probably be others in the group that has some difficulty with limiting their remarks.

For those who struggle with the time limit, suggest that they prepare their remarks in writing in advance of the meeting.  If team members frequently use texting to communicate, have them think of their presentation as short texts or tweets.  If team members don’t typically use texting, then perhaps they are more comfortable with the concept of short bullet points.

After each presenter’s 3-5 minutes are up, each team member has one minute to share their feedback with the presenter – what items were important to the team member and what could have been left out.  The presenter’s job is simply to listen to each team member’s feedback and then at the end of the feedback thank the person without further comment.

Using this methodology allows the team to focus on an effective team meeting and not any one individual’s presentation.  The process can benefit all team members’ listening and communication skills, and for you the manager, this process will free up some of your time as meetings become more focused and succinct.

In a one-on-one meeting
If you know of a nonstop talker who is a peer, what can you do? Make the motormouth feel self-conscious by staying quiet while they speak.  Being quiet includes not uttering any words or sounds like, um or uh-huh.  The more sounds they hear the more they will talk.

When you do speak to the motormouth, speak slowly.  Since most nonstop talkers speak at a rapid rate, your slower rate of speaking will create a contrast for the motormouth and will hopefully get them to become more self-aware of how much they are talking.

In addition, don’t restate what you heard as it gives a nonstop talker the opportunity to repeat themselves.  Just let them know you understand and then say good-bye.  Later, send them an email confirming what you heard and ask them to respond back by way of email.

If none of these techniques work during the one-on-one meeting, take the time to coach them.  Share your observations with them about how much they talk, how it makes you feel, and how it impacts you.  They can’t say you are wrong about your feelings.  If you are their manager/leader, ask them how they think their behavior may impact others on the team who don’t have the opportunity to talk and share their ideas with others.  With all their talking, ask them what they think they may be missing from others, both in the office and at home?

In summary: whether in group or individual meetings, the value of managing and coaching motormouths is huge!  Your meetings will be shorter, you will be able to focus on the important aspects of your job, and the nonstop talker as well as other team members will become more effective communicators.

Image Credit: The Stock Exchange (www.sxc.hu) User: daino_16

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Beth Miller

Beth Miller

Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. As a trusted executive consultant, Vistage Chair, and committed volunteer, Beth holds herself to a rigorous standard of excellence, and she encourages her clients to do the same when pursuing their goals.

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