Sunday, April 1, 2012

Reflections in the Silence

A close friend of my wife and mine commented recently that she was concerned about me based upon my lack of responsiveness in social media settings. I chuckled to myself over the fact that I had obviously set some of precedence for my activity in social media settings. Then I assured this friend that I was okay, just fully weighed down with responsibilities and activities. I assured her that there was nothing to worry about.

In fact, what has appeared as silence to those who have not heard from me is actually just temperance and self-control. I have started and scrapped a number of blog posts that would probably have landed me in hot water with someone. I took the opportunity to actually write them out because I knew that part of the purpose was for my own well-being, venting to no one in particular about certain things that have been happening in my life.

As I have grown older, I have learned more about the value of words. Talk is cheap and words get thrown around too easily. I have learned the importance of listening and the greater importance of keeping my mouth shut when opening it achieves nothing of value.

I still believe that it's important to speak up when I have something to say, especially when I choose to stand up for something, there are certain contexts that are better than others for that. Certain issues are way too volatile to actually think that opening up about them in public forums on social media will be interpreted correctly and without misunderstanding. Each and every one of us interprets things from our own context with our own lens and regardless how clear the communication, there is always potential for misunderstanding and social media doesn't allow for a simple and easy way to work through those misunderstandings in a very conducive way.

I had an experience a few weeks ago where I sent out an email to a friend. While I did my best to express positive things within the context of that email, I realized that the issue that was being raised was far too important to have assumed that a simple email would effectively communicate my intentions. This led to a misunderstanding and some hurt, which led to a meeting, which led to a great time of conversation and "airing out" of some issues. If I had only requested a meeting in the beginning, I could have saved some hurt and misunderstanding as well as all of the steps in between.

Communication is a challenge. We need to not only understand the various means and methods of communication, but we also need to understand how certain people respond to these certain means and methods. There are some people that I can write very direct emails to without any kind of pleasantries or greetings whatsoever without fear of offense. There are others who take that as me being short and impatient, and if I really stop and think about it, it probably is me being short and impatient.

Communication takes time. We can get things done without communication, but our effectiveness will be reduced because of the lack of relationships that are being fostered. If people think that we are simply goal-focused and don't care about relationships, their attitude towards us will be fairly evident and our impact on them will be evident as well. We may get things done, but how much respect will we get from people.

So, in the past few days, I've been reevaluating things a little bit. I've had to schedule some appointments with people to make right things that I've neglected. I need to focus more on relationships than I've been doing. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes me away from getting things done that some might see as "more important," but in the end, I think everyone will be better for it.

The piles of stuff will still be on my desk tomorrow and probably the day after that, but I'm not always sure that the people who I lead will be there. I'd rather have piles on my desk knowing that my relationships are good than to have an empty desk with uncertainty in my relationships.

So if I seem silent, chances are, there's a good reason for it. Silence has actually saved me time and time again, I think we could all do with a little bit more of it in our lives. Try it, you might like it, and if you're lucky, you'll learn something in the process.

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