Lessons my father taught me: never speak just to hear yourself talk.
My dad was a man of few words. He often said to me more in what he didn’t say than what he actually did. Roy Clark, the country music legend who headed up the TV show Hee-Haw with Buck Owens, was a frequent hunting partner of his who called him the Professor. His reasoning behind this? Roy said that my dad never had much to say but when he said something you knew it was important and you knew it was worth listening to. And Roy was ultimately more on the money than he ever knew.
Growing up as a shy kid I took the time to learn as much as I could about everything possible so that I could somehow contribute to every conversation I participated in. That being said, I was still uncomfortable about knowing when to jump in as I’d watched carefully as there were certain people who tended to monopolize any conversation by either their knowledge on the subject matter at hand or their natural bravado in expressing their knowledge of all things possible. And then my father taught me something I’ve used in every role I’ve served in to this very day.
I remember becoming a member of board’s of director’s at an early age and often being the youngest member of those boards. It was at that point that I began to consult my father, a gentleman who had made an impactful career in business and had served on a multitude of board’s of directors, with regards to his views on how to conduct myself in my newly found situation. The first piece of advice that he gave me was something so simple and so profound that it sticks to me to this very day: don’t speak just to hear yourself talk.
At first it wasn’t clear to me what he meant, but over time his words became somewhat of a mantra for me. As I conducted meetings, whether it was in the position of being mayor of a city or chairing a board of directors, I realized that there was never a need to speak unless you had something to add to the conversation and that speaking just to hear yourself talk only served to extend the meeting and played no real purpose in resolving the issues you had in front of you. Truthfully, I came to understand that the easiest way to expedite the process of solving any given problem in front of you was much more about listening than it ever was about speaking and that your voice, although it may be important at times, was best used when it was withheld until it had a purpose and a meaning.
During my time in office I had the opportunity to sit back and listen to folks who said that I should have been more vocal on any given topic or issue. Although I respect their point of view I’ll always adhere to my father’s view and know that sometimes silence truly is golden and that never speaking just to hear yourself talk matters.