Say it with me… Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
Depending on where you grew up, you might have a slight variation on the ending. Any way you say it, the point is the same. When people call us names or say something negative about us, we are to move on and not let what others say rile us.
Eleanor Roosevelt expressed this in a different way:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
I recently heard someone use this adage in a presentation. What immediately came to my mind was an additional ending.
Sticks and stones may break my bones and words may never hurt me, but your silence is killing me.
For me, I can handle criticism. I can deal with people telling me where I need to improve, even when it is done in a less than kind way. But, I can’t handle silence. For me, no response is far worse than the most scathing review.
In the words of Jeff Dunham’s character, Achmed, “Silence! I kill you!” For me, it is silence itself that is the killer.
Have you ever given someone a gift and heard nothing from them? I’m betting you assumed they hated it.
At work, have your poured your heart and sole into a project, then when it was completed the only thing you got was your next assignment?
Have you sent a carefully crafted email to someone and received no response whatsoever? Have you posted something on someone’s Facebook wall and waited in vain for them to click “Like”?
Where does your mind go in the absence of a response?
We all crave feedback. Sure, we prefer that feedback to be positive. We prefer praise over criticism. But, any feedback is better than no feedback.
Why? Because in the absence of feedback, most of us assume the worst. Our inner critic shouts, “They hated it. That sucked. You really screwed up that time. You’re going to be fired.”
Maybe you did screw up. Maybe you did disappoint. But, then again, maybe you didn’t. It is difficult to know in the silence.
My first job was working in a bicycle shop. Every bike we worked on was checked over by one of the two bosses. They even double checked each other’s work. The best response you could get was, “OK.” Not, “Good job.” Not, “You do good work.” Nope. The best you could get was, “OK.” I came to shoot for that response as my goal. But, even that “OK” was better than silence.
Are you with me? Do you have this same reaction to silence?
I wish I had great words of wisdom to share as to how to handle the silence and resist the temptation to assume the worst. I’ve got nothing. If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.
In the meantime, all we can do is to pay attention to when others are looking to us for feedback. Do your part to share honest feedback with them. Be overt in your thanks and appreciation.
Give others the gift of your input. The silence is killing me.