Slow Down, Motor-mouth!

It was 6:45 p.m. more than a decade ago, and I’d just met for coffee with the board president of a New York organization where I was helping assess the prospects for a turnaround.

She had 20 minutes to spare, but I had at least an hour of details to hammer through. Staff to be paid. Deadlines to be met.

At 70 m.p.h, I relayed budget numbers and donor strategy, program results and marketing plans, government funding gaps and vendor relationships.

How to Conduct a Professional Conversation

Too fast!

At about 10 minutes in, she took a sip of tea, blinked, and asked me to slow down.

“What?” I thought. Here was the general counsel of a New York hedge fund. Couldn’t she keep up?

I slowed down and we spent the next ten minutes profitably.

As we parted, she leaned in: “You know I like you. But if I’d just met you, I wouldn’t have been impressed during those first ten minutes.”

Call it New York. Call it the lawyer in her. Whatever. Call it right.

What she saw was this: 

  • A disconnect from my normal professional composure
  • A frenetic connection to detail, when an overview would have been better
  • A waste of time with little focus
At the time, I thought I was simply using time effectively. But it wasn’t a deposition or a game show. It was a business meeting in which I had 20 minutes to highlight and make real decisions about things that mattered.

Next time, I was prepared, and the experience transformed how I communicated from then forward.

Working with mid-career professionals today, I’m always surprised when some haven’t mastered the ability to synthesize data. The same was true when I was still interviewing candidates as a recruiter. People struggling to slow down and communicate at the level both they and I knew they were able.

There’s a time and place for everything. A time to lead, a time to follow. A time to detail, and a time to summarize.

Being able to assess the purpose and tone of an interaction is vital to getting what you want.

It’s true whether interviewing for a job or meeting a friend for drinks.

If you sense that your own motor-mouth tendencies have gone unchecked — or that they might resurface while interviewing for a new job — here are some ways to reign yourself in:

  • Consider your purpose, it is king
  • Lead with big ideas, they will lead the back-and-forth of a normal conversation
  • Distill the conversation, always leading top-down
  • Create connections between topics, human beings like continuity
  • Ask questions, your goal is likely a joint effort
Truly successful professionals learn and cultivate this intensely necessary soft skill. Those who don’t wonder why they’ve hit a ceiling.
Take a breath. Conduct a thoughtful conversation based on the needs of your audience. You’ll achieve abundantly more in the time allowed, and imbue a great sense of who you are.
Have you ever run off at the mouth? Were you called on the carpet? Did it make you shift gears?

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Call: 415-397-6640

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