Earlier this year, I came down with a bad cold that seemed to concentrate in my throat and eventually caused me to lose my voice altogether. The doctor told me to rest my voice as much as possible, which essentially meant that I shouldn’t talk unless I absolutely had to for the next few days. I’m the sort of person who usually has a lot to say, but luckily the laryngitis made it so difficult to talk that staying silent turned out to be much easier than I had thought. And the added bonus was that I learned a few things during that time I was required to keep my big mouth (mostly) shut.
The first thing I learned is that sometimes it’s best to pretend not to notice certain things, like, say, how very happy my husband looked when he heard that the doctor had told me to quit talking for a couple of days. I could have pondered on just why he seemed to believe my laryngitis was such good news for him, but I decided it was probably in the best interest of our marriage if I didn’t go too far down that particular road.
The second thing I learned is that it’s so much easier to listen to someone, and I mean really listen to what someone is saying, when I know that I’m not going to have to say anything back. Because usually when someone is talking to me, a part of me is listening and another part of me is already thinking about how I’m going to respond. Which means that I’m only giving that person part of my attention. And it’s so much easier to understand someone else’s point of view when we actually shut up long enough to hear what they’re trying to tell us.
The third (and best) thing I learned is the value of silence. Once I was in the position of having to decide whether or not saying something was worth the risk to my inflamed vocal cords, I became much more comfortable with not voicing every thought and idea that happened to cross my mind. I learned how to simply enjoy my own thoughts without always feeling the need to share them with others. I discovered how nice it can be so simply be with someone and to sit in companionable silence. Honestly, during the time of my enforced silence I felt calmer and more at peace than I had in a long time.
This is not to say that silence is always a good thing, because obviously it isn’t. Talking is an important form of communication and one of the main ways we humans connect with each other. But for someone like me–who tends to talk a little bit too much–learning to be quiet was an enlightening experience. I hope that I can remember the lessons I learned from being silent and continue to give my mouth a rest from time to time as I move forward. Because if I do forget, then my only hope will be another case of laryngitis…..