Anyone who knows me is probably laughing at the title of this post and saying, “When did Stephanie learn to be quiet?” Believe me, as a professional speaker, it’s a daily challenge. The truth is, however, some of my best presentations and interactions have included moments of quiet. Here are a few examples of how being quiet helped me:
Presenting a Workshop
Being quiet while presenting–just a few seconds, sometimes–helps me gather my thoughts and stay on track. I lose my train of thought more than I’d like to admit, but when I’ve revealed it to people from my audience after a presentation, they’re surprised to hear it. “But we never noticed,” they’d say. A few seconds of silence is a welcome respite for the audience as well as the speaker. It also sounds much better than, “uh,” “um,” “let’s see,” and other fillers that reveal your stream of consciousness.
Meeting With a Client
Being quiet when I’m on a conference call or in a meeting means I have a chance to process and write down what others are saying. Not talking around clients can be hard for me because I always feel as if I have to “sell” my wares: workshops, books, ideas. I have a lot of passion about what I do, and I love collaborating. When I make myself pause–I literally write “PAUSE” on my notes prior to the meeting or conference call–I always learn something significant about my clients that I would not have known if I had been talking.
Talking With My Doctor
Being quiet when visiting my doctors gives me an opportunity to learn how to be well and help them better understand my situation. Two of my all-time favorite physicians are quiet people. They ask questions, tell great stories, and participate in casual conversation with ease. But when it comes down to business, they both grow quiet. This has been a benefit to me as a patient. When I began seeing my internist–one of my favorite “quiet” doctors–she told me I had mitral valve prolapse (a heart murmur). This was a complete surprise to me, so I pondered why no other doctor had discovered it. Sometimes heart murmurs are hard to detect, so they may not have noticed it. I think what happened was that I sat on the exam table talking non-stop, and my previous doctors couldn’t hear it. My internist’s quiet demeanor set the tone on the very first visit, so I sat quietly while she listened to my heart.
What a great lesson for me.
It’s better to remain silent and be considered a fool than speak and remove all doubt.