All my life I have found it easy to speak up. Whether it be in the classroom, at the dinner table, at a conference or in a meeting room. I found talking easy – asking questions, expressing opinions, telling stories. I like to engage, debate and discuss. I like listening too – but if there is question time, a quiet moment at the dinner table , or someone asks for an opinion – I normally jump in.
That was when it was all happening in English.
Now living in Mexico City and the daily interactions all being in Spanish – I have become the quiet one in the room. A lot of the opinions, questions and stories still jump into my mind, but they don’t make it out my mouth. By the time I have thought the Spanish translation over in my head, the moment has normally passed.
Initially I was feeling frustrated at my lack of vocal participation and the build-up of all this great content going to waste in my mind. But the longer I have been here, the more I am seeing it as a chance to partake in work and social engagements from a different perspective. Watching how people interact, listening with more intensity to the vocal ones and being more aware of the body language of the quiet ones. I then often add my opinion, feedback and thoughts at a later date – the ones that have bubbled to the top and still appear relevant and valuable once the moment has passed.
Being someone who is normally all about real time communication, providing instant feedback and progressing onto the next topic – this has being a big change. A couple of months ago I did some leadership and communication training. One of the first classifications of communication style was that you either ‘speak to think’ or ‘think to speak’. Most of us typically fall into one of these buckets. I have definitely spent most of my life happily splashing about in that first bucket. But my move to Mexico City has pushed me to experience the second – this forced change in communication style has been really valuable self-development.
Are you someone who always speaks up? If so – try being the quiet one in the room for a change. Once you get past the frustration of not talking, there is lots to learn when you shut-up and listen.