Friday, April 24, 2015

Silence can be our worst enemy...

We hear all the time that words can be hurtful and words can be painful. This statement is often quite true...

But, I'd like to push a little and say that for an organization, sometimes the words that aren't said can be just as damaging to the overall culture and climate.

So we are all on the same page in regard to what 'culture' and 'climate' mean, here are two good working definitions from Todd Whitaker's (@toddwhitaker) and Steve Gruenert's (@stevegruenert) new book 'School Culture Rewired:'

School culture is like your personality... very difficult to change and not easily adjusted. 

School climate is like your attitude... very easy to change and susceptible to significant swings back and forth.

I'd like to focus more on culture and how the words we don't say often times are much worse than those actually said.

We've all been to that meeting when someone starts to speak and then continues on a path that really isn't beneficial for anyone else in attendance.

This individual continues speaking unchecked and really takes the conversation to a place where salvaging the time becomes nearly impossible.

The words we didn't speak here allowed those on the sidelines to remain on the sidelines... our silence actually emboldened those who agree with the unchecked speaker... and lastly, those in disagreement with the speaker became paralyzed because they now believe they are in the minority.

Silence in this case caused significant cultural damage that will require lots of time and effort to repair. By being silent, we sent a message that what was being said really wasn't that bad or really wasn't that far from the truth.

Sure, sometimes we need to sit and listen and gather as much information as possible before responding or before saying anything. That's perfectly fine and in fact, should be encouraged. We have two ears and only one mouth for a reason, right? :)

But, there are other times when taking action and speaking will trump getting all the information first. Don't allow silence to be your passive agreement and don't allow others to speak for you when they really don't.

Don't allow silence to be our worst enemy...