Some time ago we asked people across the world, “If you had a magic wand that would eliminate consequences for just one conversation, what would you say and who would you say it to?”
If you had permission to say anything you wanted to anyone you wanted without any consequences, what would you say?
I want to share some of the responses we received.
“To My Boss — For eight years you single-handedly drove away every good employee we’ve ever had. I can no longer tolerate your condescending tone, your passive micro-managing, your overt verbal sexual harassment towards female employees, your hypocritical management of work time or even your insincere compliments.”
WOW! The cost and consequence of keeping those thoughts and feelings inside is definitely forming a volcanic environment. One that is building up to explode at any minute. Think about what that must do to culture.
Here’s another one:
“To My Wife — We’ve been together a long time, but it is time for us to consider going our separate ways.”
So many broken relationships aren’t broken because it was inevitable. They are broken by silence. They were broken because the lag-time between feeling a problem and discussing the problem in a healthy way grew so wide that the relationship deteriorated.
“To My Colleague — I betrayed your trust by sharing confidential information that you shared with me with another peer. I apologise and would change it if I could.”
How does guilt show up when it’s undiscussed?
“To the Woman Next to Me — Do you have a cat or something that makes your coat/shoes/bags? There is a really bad odour from you and your desk. It is very nauseating and offensive to me.”
That’s a sensitive issue to put on the table. But let’s ask ourselves, what is the cost of silence, and how is it showing up?
“To My Husband — I feel frustrated by the mess and clutter in our house. I love you, but I can’t stand this anymore. I’ve been patient for a long time. It appears you don’t care. In addition, I think you need professional help to deal with hoarding tendencies. I want to get some counselling and I think you should too.”
I want you to contemplate this for a moment: Is silence truly silent, or is it showing up somewhere?
The principle we found over time — the reason these moments have such disproportionate influence — is because you and I don’t get to vote on how they affect relationships.
At Crucial Dimensions, we often say, “If you don’t talk it out, you act it out.”. We know this is true, and it shows up in hundreds of different ways. If a critical issue isn’t discussed, it’s acted out and shows up in our behaviour.
Crucial Conversations can dramatically change how people show up in crucial moments. It causes people to start calculating the cost of silence, realising that silence isn’t truly silent, and to carefully and thoughtfully list the risks of NOT speaking up.
What are the costs right now? How is it showing up? And, what is the default future if this continues to go undiscussed?
The contribution we’re trying to make to the world is to help you understand that crucial conversations is the pathway to your goals, not something that keeps you from it.