Many of us have heard that expression about silence, right?
Meaning, of course, that the noise from our voice and words may not help in a difficult situation.
But is that always true?
Let’s say someone you’ve known and worked with for many years suddenly has a strong negative response to something you did.
They immediately tell you about that via email, using words that hurt, that seem to belittle you and your actions,. They make you wonder about the time you’d known each other and thought you understood them, thought you knew who they were through and through.
Confused about it, you immediately reach out via an email, a text, or a phone call, all in the effort to find out the why of the situation from their perspective.
Why are they so upset? Why did they write as they did?
How can you make it right?
Then, of course, you wait for a response, holding your breath, hoping …
Wait a day.
You follow up with a “Are you OK? Are we OK?” or something like that. No attack, just concern. Because you are concerned; this is not something you ever envisioned with this person.
Two more days go by.
You try again, valuing the relationship you’ve had for so many years, mentioning that silence is impossible to understand, that you only know YOUR side of the situation that has somehow become a real issue between you two.
Something you never imagined could happen given your five years of a strong, mutually appreciative work partnership.
You explain how you feel.
You ask them to please, please respond. Please help you understand what’s going on.
Please see if you two can talk it out, find a path that works for you both, so you stay as friends / colleagues / whatever.
More silence, now for two weeks.
Is this golden?
Is this anything you ever imagined could happen with this person?
And that’s the saddest part, isn’t it? You can’t go back, yet you can’t move forward with certainty because you only know one-half of the situation.
You can’t effectively apologize because you don’t know what the right words would be due to the silence.
The silence “speaks” to the fact that reconnecting with you isn’t what they’re going to do.
The silence seems to say that all you did together no longer matters, that they’re going on their own without you supporting, helping, caring.
The positive partnership you believed you had crumbled, turned to dust …
It’s like fighting a ghost …
And it hurts.
For me – this is real.
Five years of working wonderfully well together, gone in a flash, with no explanation.
I remain mystified, sad, angry – working on getting over it.
While silence is golden in some circumstances, and we likely shouldn’t speak out in anger, we should at the very least explain our side in a situation that is confusing to one or both.
Especially if we’ve had a positive relationship of any kind for so long.
Take the high road, if possible.
Maybe we’ll each still go our own way, but at least we’ll know why.
And that’s what matters most to me: Why.
(First published in bizcatalyst360.com)