Why you will regret keeping your mouth shut

Written by Jon lam, Toastmasters International

We are often reminded of the old adage that we “were born with two ears and one mouth for a reason.” It is so we can listen more than we speak. However, after missing out on many business opportunities by simply being a ‘good listener’, I realised that I needed to start opening my mouth more. As the saying by Mahatma Gandhi goes, “if you don’t ask, you don’t get it.” This does not mean that you will instantly win business deals by simply asking for it though, since it depends on how you communicate the ask.

And that is why I decided to start working on my communication skills by exploring the world of public speaking. If you are a leader in your organisation, read on to learn why keeping your mouth shut might be ruining your opportunities to get ahead in the world of business.


You will miss out on key leadership opportunities

 Successful businesses are often spearheaded by strong leaders and it’s often those who speak up that get elected for leadership positions. Susan Cain, author of the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” explains that “extroverts are routinely chosen for leadership positions and introverts are looked over, even though introverts often deliver better outcomes.” This is because they are not considered as “leadership material”.

There is therefore a strong case to develop your public speaking skills so that you can communicate across ideas that truly inspire others. By doing this, you will gain more visibility in your organisation and strengthen your credibility among your peers too. Start developing this skill by taking on any speaking opportunity that arises at work, even if you feel apprehensive. After speaking, be open to receiving feedback so you know where you can improve in your next speaking opportunity. With consistent practice, you will find it increasingly comfortable to speak with impact in public.


You may be losing out on opportunities to collaborate

Finding common ground with others is often a crucial step taken when trying to build partnerships. Unless you meet someone who can mind-read, you’ll most likely have to tell them about your ideas. Again, this is where public speaking comes in. I recall practicing my speaking skills, specifically voice projection and good body posture before volunteering to talk at events. And after sharing my ideas at these events, I was approached by like-minded attendees who resonated with my ideas. These meaningful connections resulted in new business partnership opportunities that would not have happened if I had not learned to communicate my ideas in an engaging manner.

When speaking at any event, it is important to first have a grasp on the audience that you are speaking to. After this step, leverage techniques, such as humour to share your ideas in an engaging manner. By doing so, you will increase the chances of creating new connections with others who resonate with your ideas and who might turn into potential business partners.


Mentor others

By practicing how to speak publicly, you will be harnessing communication, one of the most important skills any leader can possess. However, practicing alone will only give you one angle on how to speak. Successful businesses were not built single-handedly by one person, therefore it’s paramount to also take up opportunities to mentor inexperienced speakers in your organisation. By doing this, you will gain a fresh perspective and new ideas on how to improve your own public speaking style. Additionally, you will be able to help build a stronger and more impactful team that can help propel the organisation forward. As with anything, do not wait and start taking up speaking and mentoring opportunities whenever you have the chance as you will only grow through experience.



Jon Lam is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org