2018 had a quiet start for me. You see, somewhere between 10pm and midnight on New Year’s Eve—while I was in church and very much not at a loud, salacious party—I randomly lost my voice.
At first, I thought my voice would recover with a good night’s sleep and a few cups of hot tea, but no. Three days later, I went to the doctor, who confirmed that it was an official case of laryngitis. The prognosis: it could take several weeks to fully regain my voice and there was nothing I could really do about it. In the meantime, I’d risk prolonging my recovery if I tried to force any sound from my throat.
For someone who talks and sings a lot, laryngitis is a frustrating experience. But because I’m all about finding the lesson even in loss, here are a few things I learned by being quiet.
Talking ≠ Communication
We all know that effective communication includes more than just speaking. When we’re talking, we’re using not only our words but our tone of voice and inflection to get our point across. In written communication, punctuation, formatting and even fonts become tools to provide more nuance to our words. While my voice was on hiatus, I also learned to make better use of body language, facial expressions, and eye contact. (I basically perfected my “mom look”.)
But my communication breakthrough came when I started to really listen. In not being able to speak, I realized how often I had my habit of talking prevented me from absorbing what others were communicating. With laryngitis, I was all ears.
Laryngitis also provided me with an opportunity to recognize how frequently I spoke without adding value to a conversation.Speaking without adding value is not communication. It's noise. #seekthesimplicity Click To Tweet
Not every stimulus requires a response.
On the heels of realizing that a lot of what I normally said was just noise, I also began to notice that I often spoke as a reflex. And reflexes are tricky. Sometimes they save you from a threat happening so fast that there’s no time for thinking, only time for action. Other times, our reflexes cause more trouble than they prevent because they override our rationale.It's easy to respond reflexively to a question with an answer. But that doesn't mean it's the way you should respond. #realtalk Click To Tweet
Laryngitis short-circuited my talking reflex. When I suddenly found myself unable to say what was on the tip of my tongue, I saw how often what I might have said would have caused complications, confusion, or just bad karma.
Taking a moment to think before speaking is always a good idea. And sometimes, in that moment, you’ll see that the best thing to say is nothing at all.
Respect the process.
There’s no real cure for laryngitis. Extreme cases could be long-term, but in most cases the body will heal itself with a bit of time and patience. My doctor suggested homeopathic therapies like honey and gargling with salt water, but those were just interventions to prevent things from getting worse, not cures.
People like professional singers and others who rely on their voice to earn a living might opt for a steroid treatment, but even that isn’t a cure. Steroids simply speed up the recovery process. But they can be tough on the body and have adverse effects—and it’s that way with most things in life.The process is what it is and it takes as long as it takes. You can find a shortcut, but using it will cost you. #respecttheprocess Click To Tweet
Ito took me three and a half weeks to fully recover my voice. It wasn’t fun, but at the end of the day, a few weeks of silence was a cheap price to pay for these valuable lessons.
Tell me, how do you cope with less than ideal circumstances? Have you ever been able to find a lesson in a challenging situation? I’d love to hear about it so leave your answer in the comments!