6 Ways Nice People Can Manage Conflict by Travis Bradberry recently showed up on Huffington Post and I was struck by his first point: Consider the repercussions of silence. When it comes to conflict, we so often tend to think silence is easier – if we can just grit out teeth and get through it, things will be fine. But the behavior continues and we find ourselves rolling our eyes, coughing loudly, making snide comments and, before we know it, we find ourselves in passive aggressive territory, or even just aggressive territory. Both of which are surefire ways to make sure a problem doesn’t get resolved.
The reason this struck me as the first point is that silence is often viewed as not making a decision or the absences of a decision, but I would argue that it’s very much a decision – it’s a decision to allow the bothersome behavior to continue. We think people know their actions are problematic, but that assumes they make a conscious decision to make our lives difficult. And as much as we’d like to cast people in the role of villain, that just simply isn’t the case most of the time. They’re working with the information they have, which if we remain silent, is just one side of the story – their own.
If we don’t take the opportunity to speak up when we have a preference for something else when it comes to a behavior or decision, it’s just as much our fault if we don’t like the result. In the absence of anything else, our silence is our implicit endorsement. So next time you find yourself thinking it’s easier to stay quiet than to share your preference, think about how unhappy you’ll be next time that behavior occurs or a similar decision is made. Because with your silence, the only thing that’s guaranteed is that the same thing will happen again.