In a week that's featured the return of Adele's powerfully emotional voice, the silencing of Whitney Houston's soaring vocals, and the imminent finale of Glen Campbell's crooning to Alzheimer's disease, I feel compelled to share this truth: Use your voice. It's the center of your influence.
Ever lost your voice? I've been silenced by a case of full blown laryngitis this week and am under doctor's orders to stay completely silent for 48 hours. No speaking. No whispering. Not so much as a gentle throat clearing.
You'd be surprised at how much you learn about your ability to influence when you're suddenly silent – and what others imply by your stillness.
My silence thrust a bank into high alert. Blame my upbringing, but while making a deposit at my local bank branch, I slipped the teller a note apologizing for my silence. When I looked up, I spotted the camera zooming in really tight on me. Hold-up note, anyone? Lesson learned - never overcompensate when a red panic button is on the line.
I learned that I deeply value and miss sharing exchanges with strangers like "thank you" and "you're welcome." I missed chatting with my college daughter on the phone. I missed the ability to call my dad. And to exchange quick pleasantries with the flyer in the next seat. My doctor-induced silence felt foreign and borderline rude, apology notes notwithstanding.
Of course, my friends and family had a different viewpoint. My son found my predicament ironically funny since I wrote a book entitled "Talk Less, Say More." Now he's playfully re-titled it "Talk Less, Write More."
How does my laryngitis relate to your influence? More than you'd think. As an executive coach, I witness a world full of people who aren't using their voices. They're withholding when they should be contributing. Sadly, they're being misunderstood and losing opportunities for advancement as a result. Not to mention that their organizations are missing important contributions. Some quick tips:
Others make judgements about your leadership abilities from the way you contribute. People size you up to decide if you merit their support. Use your voice. The alternative is a real pain in the neck.