If we are silent, do we consent?
We have seen historic economic, religious, political, and sociological challenges in our lifetime. If you are reading this today, you have personal experience with dramatic global change. This post asks a few questions about how we can effectively use our voices to achieve common and specific goals. I’d like to learn from others how they manage through personal, professional, and social issues. When should we raise our voices? When should we intentionally stay silent? What has worked for people and where have they failed? I’ll start with my perception of where most of us are.
Many of us try to go about our lives living in peace. Raising our voices or getting involved takes effort and we have been mostly careful with where we place our energy. I say “we” as it is my perception that “we” are the silent majority. For many, the place for debate and conversation would be at the dinner table or a safe place to openly speak. There are many issues that I have an opinion on that I would not dare bring up publicly. I am not afraid to share my opinion, but the vocalization of an opinion is akin to going to the bank for a withdrawal. Regardless of where we are on any concern, there is a cost and benefit that we must weigh out. For some, they find themselves bankrupt or gambling with their opinions. Even if you have the backing of the mob, they can turn on you with one statement or view. The mob is chaotic and nuclear.
Silence is a powerful weapon as well. If we are silent, we may not agree but our silence may give permission to others to continue their behavior. If we are silent, we may be complicit. Silence may appear to be the easy route given our lack of desire to get involved in something. It may feel easy at any given moment, but I believe an imbalance of silence may become our downfall.
Technologically speaking, we have more communication tools in our hands than ever before in our history. For most of us, yelling into a social media microphone is the same thing as standing on a street corner with a handwritten sign. Most people drive by or may never see the person with the sign. Depending on what the sign says, we may think the person is off their rocker and ignore them regardless. I’ve had a few recent experiences that have proven the complexity of silence in my own life. While it is true that I write and participate in some social media, I generally keep my personal opinions on important controversial matters to my close circle. I do believe in healthy debate but I have learned over the years that on the internet, one must have very thick skin. Some of the anger and frustration is so deeply seeded that engaging in what we think will be a peaceful and civil dialogue is dangerous. When we realize that one comment can create a hateful flurry of vicious attacks, it deters some of us from having a conversation. Many people are walking around with open wounds, literally wearing their pain on their t shirts.
The idea of purposeful communication has become top of mind. When I think of purposeful communication, I am also thinking about how effective it may be. Are we savages? I wonder.
How much of a voice do we have?
How much of a voice do we need?
If we do use our voices, to what end?
Many organizations, government, corporate and others simply ignore our voices. Years ago, I was working for a person who was abusive to all his staff. Most people were either uninterested or fearful of losing their jobs to raise their voices. When HR was approached, they chose not to do anything to him. It took years before action was taken. How many times have you seen something like this? It is fairly normal as far as I can see.
Have you been to a large store recently? Many do not honor the promises concerning the products they sell. What does one voice mean to them? How about service companies? I read recently that the BBB is useless. Taking to social media also works if and only if you have a large following,
Is using our voice only effective if we are a chorus?
I have personally found it effective to use my network to raise issues and concerns. How many people have a network which could influence important decisions and behaviors?
Politicians are supposed to represent the interest of the people. Recently, I sought out help from Senator Bob Menendez for a critical issue with the Department of Veterans Affairs. His office acknowledged my concerns but took no action. I’ve had to use my connections to address my concerns. If this had been some years ago and I returned from the service and I asked my representative for help, I wouldn’t have made any progress.
In some cases, the minority is so very loud that you can’t help but hear them. Their voices don’t become a chorus, they become loud static. What do companies, agencies and organizations do with static? They seek to equalize it or quiet it by creating mechanisms that simply deflect or artificially answer the noise.
I ask you…
Do you think we can have real conversations today?
Do you think we have made real progress as a people?
Are we better or worse than we were just a few years ago?
What is the cost of our silence?
What is the cost of raising our voices as individuals?
What ability do we have as individuals?
What is your experience?
If we get tired of speaking enough, maybe to those who don’t want to hear from us, we will just go away?
If we yell at the street corner, they may see us but walk by.
What do you think?