Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Jennifer Frank, MD: My voice

I have laryngitis. This is my first bout with the sickness that takes your voice. I can squeak out a few words before I start coughing. I can whisper pretty well for several sentences before I get tired of whispering or my audience gets tired of trying to hear me. However, I am definitely unable to continue my current voice-related duties.

At home this weekend, I had to discipline without my voice. This led to two things. First, I let some things go that normally would have found me yelling either up or down the stairs to “stop chasing each other,” “brush your teeth like I told you to three times already,” or ask “is your room clean yet?”

Second, I got a lot more exercise since I had to physically locate myself in the same room as the kids if I cared enough about their current infraction to reprimand them. That tired me out quickly. So, I found it easier to just hang out wherever they were. This allowed me to watch them more closely which made it less necessary to correct them as my proximity had a disciplining effect.
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The unintended effect was that I spent more quiet time with my kids — my daughter read me a story, I taught my other daughter how to play Connect Four, I explored all of the Lego weapons my son had repurposed into even more powerful weapons, and I got some great belly laughs out of my infant son.

At work on Monday morning, I had to critically evaluate my schedule. Clinic on Monday afternoon would prove challenging for both me and my patients if I had to whisper through questions and instructions. I reviewed my appointments and was able to identify which ones needed primarily my hands or eyeballs and would allow minimal conversation. Not surprisingly, I determined that most actually needed to hear me, so they had to be rescheduled.

I couldn’t pick up the phone for the telephone conference I had planned, that would need to be rescheduled. I had a couple of important meetings to attend — both requiring at least some input from me. I considered writing down my thoughts, but was able to express everything I needed to say with a few well chosen words, thumbs up or down, and a few shakes of my head. At the conclusion of both meetings, I felt that the things that I needed to communicate had, in fact, been communicated. It is both humbling and embarrassing to consider how many more words I would have used had it been easier to do so.

Being quiet today has other benefits. When I did speak, everyone listened. They wouldn’t be able to hear me otherwise. Ironic — I usually raise my voice to be heard better. I also feel more quiet and calm. I am thinking before I speak (a rarity) because I have to save up my words to exert maximum effect. It is evident that this would be a good practice every day.

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