No, of course all silence is not. Although there might be times when it is wise to bite our tongue, too many families and organisations have unhealthy ‘cultures’ of silence. All too often, we complain about injustice, prejudice, inefficiencies, dishonesty (the list goes 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 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 literally have people 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 (#1)

1. Fear punishment or harsh consequences. This is one of the major reasons for workplace silence. You’ll notice that it’s 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 quite because they don’t want their children throwing temper tantrums. This kind of silence is unhealthy and even dangerous.

2. How can you talk up? Becoming aware of where you (or someone else in your family or team) instils fear could the first step to changing your behaviour or giving feedback to another about the effectives of their behaviour. Teach people effective conversations skills (I’ll address this soon so watch out for ‘how to make hard conversations easier’ or – better yet – book yourself on our Assertive & Constructive Communication Skills training on 25 & 26 April 2013). Teach people how to be emotionally intelligent and manage their emotions. 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 than their bite. Be prepared to have the conversation using strong facts and stand your ground. You might literally save lives and – at very least you could…

“be the difference that makes the difference