If you grew up in Detroit, you will remember the lady pictured on the left: Rita Bell, hostess of Channel 7’s Prize Movie during the 60s & 70s. As I look back, I think she might have been one of my earliest mentors. Afterall, she combined two of my passions: music and talking on the phone! For you non-Detroiters, at breaks during the featured “prize” movie, Rita would play a song and receive calls from people who tried to guess the name of it in order to win a cash prize. I so remember her tapping her pencil to the beat against the phone and humming along. That actually annoyed me…for cryin’ out loud, let the people hear the music, Rita! (Fun Fact: Rita was Detroit’s first woman weathercaster, and she was discovered by Channel 7’s General Manager when she was peforming as a singer in a local band.)
What does this have to do with recovery from vocal surgery? Nothing really. Just a segue of sorts. Yesterday, as you know I was given the go-ahead by my voice therapist to speak normally, but I am still prohibited from speaking on the phone. A friend asked me yesterday why it’s ok for me to talk to people in person but not on the phone. Here’s the explanation I gave him based on what was shared with me at a voice therapy session:
Phones have filters that distort (for want of a better term) the sound of the talker’s voice without him/her knowing it. So when you talk on the phone, you are unconsciously adjusting your voice based on how the phone tells your brain you sound. (I don’t totally get it, because I’m not a medical or technical person, but I trust my practitioners.) I ran this crude explanation past Juliana, my therapist, and she added this: on the phone you don’t get any feedback from your listener… no gestures/body language…. so you have no clue if the listener is following you until he/she actually says something. If you’re anything like me (a chronic over-explainer, that is), when I don’t get feedback, I assume the people I’m talking to aren’t ‘getting it’ so I add a little more content to help them understand or add a little more emphasis to get them to buy in. (Is buy-in perhaps the softer side of control?) Besides not getting feedback from the listener, you also can’t use your own gestures/body language to emphasize ideas, so you rely solely on your voice (inflections, volume , pauses) to add information or create meaning to your message. All of this adds up to more stress on your vocal cords.
For me, there are some additional hazards to using the phone at this point in my recovery. First, if left to my own devices, I will talk on the phone continuously. Back when I worked for a large recruiting company, our phone time was tracked each day. I consistently clocked the top phone time in the company. If I were allowed to use the phone right now, I know I would overuse my voice and throw a wrench into the recovery process. Second, when I talk on the phone, I’m not always mindful of my vocal hygiene (posture, pitch, resonance, volume) because I’m paying more attention to being able to hear (and sometimes drive) than practicing good speech techniques.
I’m at full acceptance of this “no phones” mandate. I’m certainly not happy about it, since my business model is based on phone connection. My job as an executive coach and recruiter requires me to talk on the phone for several hours per day. About 80% of my business/revenue generating activity happens on the phone. It would be an understatment to say that my vocal cord injury has cut into my 2019 earnings. That’s why I recently added professional resume writing to my menu of services. There are no phones required to type, right?
Thankfully, I can still connect with clients and the business community as a whole using other means: texts, emails and social media messaging. But, in my humble opinion, none of those methods of communication will ever measure up to having a good old fashioned phone conversation. All in due time.
Day #26 marks the first day of full speech clearance. It sure feels good to be talking again!