Shhh! Why Silence is Not Always the Answer
We see an injustice done to a student by a teacher, but we like the teacher and dislike the student, so we stay quiet. We overhear a conversation that sounds a little too risqué for someone in leadership to be saying, but we don't say anything because it is too small to mention. We feel something strange in what should be a natural touch from a close family member, but we can't identify the problem, so we just smile and walk away. We read about abuse happening around us, but since we don't know the people personally, we go on and do nothing about it.
Why are all of these scenarios worth talking about anyway? Because they are all signs of deeper, yet subtle problems that will only grow if not confronted.
Confrontation is something most people try to avoid. In fact, many of us choose to suffer the devastating end results of many of these problem signs because we are afraid of causing a confrontation. We would rather stay quiet and let the people behind the inappropriate or indifferent incidents sort out their problems by themselves. That is where most of us go wrong.
Why should we speak up about the indecencies and uncomfortable situations we encounter?
It is the individual pieces of hay adding up that break the camel's back; the last straw is just the one that gets blamed.
1. Because the little things do matter.
In Howard Shultz's book, Onward, he recalls Starbuck's learning the hard way that each drink, person, and experience are what matters most. Their company almost failed because those in leadership were failing to capitalize on the little things. Why is that? Because the little things add up. Quickly. And when the little things start going wrong, it is usually a foreboding of worse things to come. In Starbuck's case, it was lowering comps. For you, it might be as difficult as a failed relationship. Take time to talk about the little things that often matter most.
2. Because if you don't say anything, nobody else will.
You know that saying, "It's not my place..."? Chances are, everyone else is thinking that too. Many times when one person steps up to address things that seem insignificant, others stand up in agreement for positive change. If you think that you are not in the position to say something to that person, ask someone who is in that position what they would do in that hypothetical situation. If you are afraid of bodily injury, this is most definitely more of a reason to speak up to someone who can help.
3. Because if you don't say something now, you may wish you had later.
It has been said that time heals all wounds. That may be true, but what is not true is the assumption that time resolves all problems. Letting something slip does not take away the fact that it happened. After you face an unsettling situation, address the individual personally and take close note to their reaction. If another situation arises soon after, enlist a trusted comrade for support in the matter. By taking action, you show that you have the courage and concern necessary to take care of problems before the problems take over.
4. Because someone else may wish they had known what you know.
Maybe someone close to that questionable individual in your life is unaware of these awkward or maybe even shocking situations you are encountering with their loved one. How would they react if they knew that you allowed something inappropriate to continue unquestioned in your presence? If they were in your position, would they confront the individual? "If I only knew..." is a common phrase said in regret. If you do know something going on that bothers your conscience, silence is not the answer. Seek wisdom if necessary, but be willing to overcome the tendency of doing nothing.
None of this is to say that we should never hold our tongue in any given situation. Rather, it is to show how important it is to say the right thing at the right time. It is best for us to keep our opinions to ourselves sometimes. The bottom line is that the same value that we place on silence should be given to speaking up when needed. As the Hebrew proverb says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."