Is silence really golden?
No, of course not. Although there might be times when it is wise to bite your tongue, too many families and organisations have unhealthy ‘cultures’ of silence. All too often, we complain about injustice, prejudice, inefficiencies, dishonesty (the list keeps going on and on…), yet we watch as the rights and values of others are trampled on. Take a look around, it is likely happening right now.
Unhealthy silence leads to all sorts of tragedies… some even fatal. Take for example, the Duke University Medical Centre transplant tragedy. Mismatched blood types during an organ transplant led to the death of a 17-year-old girl. People who should have demanded that the doctors double-check the blood type simply stood by and said nothing. Another example was in 1978 when a pilot by the name of Melburn McBroom’s plane was approaching Portland to land and he noticed a problem with the landing gear. He decided to maintain a holding pattern as he obsessed about the landing gear. His co-pilots watched as the fuel gauges approached empty, but they said nothing. The plane crashed, killing ten people. Scary, isn’t it?!
Although you might not have people literally dying around you, how many are dying inside? Think about the culture in your family, office, church, etc. Is it a healthy one? If not, it is up to you to challenge the status quo. Let’s take
Key Steps this week and recognise the first type of…
Deadly silence (Part 1)
- Fear punishment or harsh consequences. This is one of the major reasons for workplace silence. You’ll notice that it is the reason for the airline crash in 1978. McBroom was known for being a tyrant and the crew who survived the crash admitted to being too scared of him to speak up. You often see this in families too. Where children are too scared to talk to an autocratic parent or parents keep quiet because they don’t want their children throwing temper tantrums. This kind of silence is unhealthy and dangerous.
- How can you talk up? Becoming aware of where you (or someone else in your family or team) instil fear could be the first step to changing your behaviour or giving feedback to another about the impact of their behaviour. It is important to teach people effective conversation skills (Book yourself and/or your team on our Key Steps to Assertive Communication and Conflict Management workshop and we will cover topics such as ‘how to make hard conversation easier’, how to get the best out of others’, ‘how to give and receive feedback’ and much, much more). And if you are facing someone who is a tyrant remember that your worst fears are unlikely to come true – their bark is usually worse then their bite. Be prepared to have the conversation using facts and stand your ground. You might literally save lives and – at very least you could…