The Sound of Silence

It is so easy to get caught up in the noise of everyday life. You get up, go to work or class, have meetings and do work, eat lunch, have more meetings and do more work, go home, eat dinner, watch TV, and go to sleep. Substitute nearly any activity in the routine, my point remains the same: there is always noise. Whether it’s car horns or clacking keyboards or someone dying on Game of Thrones, we hear noise. Typically we apply some sort of importance to whatever thing we are listening to; a coworker talking during a meeting is probably of more immediate importance than the bird chirping outside. Thus, while we emphasize the importance of whatever we hear, we thereby take importance away from what we do not hear. The silent coworker is less important than the talking one.

Leaders must rise above this notion.

During an activity today we had to collectively decide on an estimated time that we would complete a task in. Personally, I did not care about the time at all. I nodded in agreement with anything that made sense and others seemed to support. I was more concerned with making sure that people who showed that they disagreed strongly felt included in the discussion. This sounds well and good, but I was overlooking people. It shocked me when I realized that I overlooked the possibility of someone silently caring about the answer and disagreeing with the majority. These people were not one-hundred percent silent because they did voice their opinion, but they were quick to go along with the others.

To me, when I see someone do this I assume that they do not actually care about the issue. If they did, why would they submit to the will of the majority? This is how I saw it during the discussion, at least. But there are tons of reasons that this person would submit to the majority while still caring. Maybe they were intimidated by the others? Maybe they hate being a hassle? Maybe conflict simply scares them?

No matter the reason, these people fall silent, and the sound of their silence can be deafening if their opinion winds up being correct. This person probably had sound logic and reasoning behind their opinion, and it was ignored! This is no way for a team to act. Thus, a good listener should always listen to the sound of silence.

At first I rejected the notion that I was not being inclusive. Me, with my number one Strengthfinder strength of inclusion, overlooking people? But then I begrudgingly came to the conclusion that I had made a mistake during the activity by not inquiring about the logic behind other people’s quiet opinions. I believe that a good leader takes their mistakes seriously and tries to learn from them. From here on out, I plan to do my best to be more inclusive of other opinions and emulate a good leader.

On the other hand, none of this will matter if I don’t get through the trek.