How to speak without talking?

Last week was a whirlwind of activity. I met more people in the last 7 days than I did in the last 3 years. The PROI global summit and the ICF India conclave happened back to back and I was immersed in both. In addition, there were client review meetings, new business meetings, and social engagements. A week that felt like I had turned back the clock and gone back to burning the candle at both ends – the way things used to be.

As I sit down to write this column, for the first time in a very long time I had no idea what I wanted to share. What was my learning for the week? It was so packed with action that I had not had the opportunity to sift through all that happened and jot down a note or two to myself (as I customarily do). I had pages full of notes from all the sessions and meetings I had attended but no time to reflect and internalise. My body was weary and my mind was full. I needed to rest one and empty the other to allow me to decode and communicate.

There was much that came forth when I asked myself “what did I learn this week?” But one story stood out. It’s a story about communication. It’s also a coaching story. It’s a story about leadership and learning. It’s a short story that tells so many tales.

How to speak without talking? The story of class participation – this is the story about a student who got 10 on 10 without speaking a word. Prof. Neerja Pande (one of the speakers at the coaching conclave) shared how she gave a student 100 percent marks for class participation for the very special art of listening attentively. Speaking is not the only way to participate. We must break the stereotype that those who talk a lot are the ones who get attention. What better way than to celebrate and acknowledge those who have this skill of paying attention? They have mastered the art of listening. To listen attentively and give one’s whole attention to something or someone is truly a gift. A gift for the giver and the recipient.

Being on stage is important. Having a point of view is important. Sharing one’s knowledge is important. Being attentive and receiving that information and knowledge is equally powerful. However, talking in class is not the only way to participate in the class. When I messaged Prof. Neerja, thanked her for her wisdom, and told her how much this story resonated her reply was equally enlightening. She said. “ I truly do believe that for long extroversion has been too much linked with leadership.” Maybe it’s the introvert in me that found this fascinating or maybe I was open and in listening mode. The moral of the story for me was, I do not need to be the loudest in the room to make the largest impact. A silent presence can sometimes be just as effective.

Some of the most powerful parts of a coaching conversation are those that happen in silence. Allowing the client to absorb and interpret and see themselves or their situation with fresh eyes. In the communication profession too, the power of silence and how to use it effectively is well documented. Making time every week to allow for some silence and reflecting on the week gone by is a habit that has served me well. Thank you Reputation Today for the gift of this space to allow me to listen to myself.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Nikhil Dey
Nikhil Dey is Executive Director, Adfactors PR.

A trusted coaching and communications professional, Nikhil Dey is a certified life and leadership coach (International Coach Federation - ICF). Nurturing talent and helping clients achieve their goals is what makes him happy. He loves learning from students of communication, teaching courses and guest lecturing at various educational institutions. When he is not working you will find him on the tennis court or out for long walks with his family and four legged friends.

Previously he has held senior leadership positions at Weber Shandwick and Genesis BCW.

He can be reached on twitter @deydreaming

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