My Turn: Walking My Walk

"The greatest thing I have learned from Toastmasters is how to listen."

By Oshiomowe R. Momodu-Busari, ACB, CL

I have always been a talker but not a communicator. Plato said, “A wise man speaks when he has something to say, a fool speaks when he wants to say something.”

I finally discovered this difference when I worked briefly as an auditor. I decided to go back to being an accountant so I wouldn’t have to deal with words. Boy, was I wrong! Not only did I have to write reports to present the numbers, I also had to write reports and verbally explain the numbers. Spell check can only do so much, and I lacked a capable secretary to do all my writing and thinking for me. So I had to do something that would enhance my skills in writing, speaking, listening and presentation.

I was very eager to join Toastmasters; my first club was Atomic City Toastmasters in Richland, Washington. The first meeting was scary. As a Muslim woman, I thought I would be rejected, but I was warmly welcomed, and the energy was very positive. The first speech I heard wasn’t very good, and I wondered what people’s reaction to it would be. I was impressed by the evaluation; it was constructive with very positive suggestions. The time I spent in the Richland club helped me learn to relax and evaluate to motivate.

I have since moved on to another club, where I achieved my personal goals for the year, which were to complete my Competent Communicator award and start on my Competent Leadership manual. It was at this club that I developed a lot of self-confidence and improved my listening skills.

I learned to speak publicly about issues that are important to me. I have learned to express myself in a timely and concise manner. But the greatest thing I have learned from Toastmasters is how to listen. It is important to listen to what is being said, how it is being said and who is speaking. That, to me, is the most important part of communication.

In Toastmasters I have learned to express my innermost thoughts without being too intense and to listen without prejudice. I became a volunteer crisis counselor, a task I would not have undertaken without these skills.

It’s amazing what you can learn from listening to a speech. My writing has improved, and so have my speaking and listening skills. These days I play golf, read about history, take guitar lessons, listen to classical music and have tried kayaking. These are hobbies I would not have taken an interest in were it not for fellow club members giving speeches about them.

Toastmasters has truly been a great adventure for me, and the start of many more! 

Oshiomowe R. Momodu-Busari, ACB, CL, is a member of Presidential Speakers Club in Suitland, Maryland.