When you speak, where do you do it? At your home. At your job. In a meeting. At a conference. Think about these places for just a moment, and the people who are there to hear you.
Now another, more difficult question: when you speak, why do you do it?
“A wise man speaks because he has something to say; a fool because he has to say something.” -Plato
Plato’s famous words are powerful because they resonate with something we all know to be true; those with the loudest mouths usually have the least to say, and those who use their mouths the most tend to use them most poorly.
But of course, that’s not you. And it’s certainly not me… right?
Is there purpose in your words? Do you offer your opinion when nobody asks? Do you enter conversations uninvited? When was the last time you thought for more than a few seconds before you spoke? When was the last time you chose to hold your tongue and allow someone to feel the weight of your silence?
We all want to be masters of something, some area of expertise; a tiny corner of this industry or that; the role of employee, manager, or leader. We want mastery to say we’re valuable. We shout to the world with tweets and blogs, webinars and keynote speeches that we’ve mastered our thing, waiting for the very heavens to pour riches down upon us with recognition and respect.
But mastery doesn’t work that way. Plato knew it and so do your customers, your coworkers, your spouse.
Until you can pierce to the very heart of a thing with a single phrase, you’ve not mastered it. Mastery resides in the deep lines upon worn faces; behind the quiet eyes of those who’ve gone and seen, who’ve learned not to waste their breath.
Next time you want to communicate mastery, remember what it sounds like.