Silence Is Golden.
I’m at Panera’s attempting to write something of importance when I take a break and look up and see seated at a table a family speaking in sign language. Generally, I wouldn’t give this a second thought, but for some strange reason, I’m fascinated with what is taking place a few feet away from me. Here is a family carrying on an animated conversation that only they can understand by using their hands to communicate with each other and not uttering a sound. I’m old enough to remember the time when we used a different term for individuals who couldn’t speak which I won’t repeat here.
You might ask, why is this important. I don’t know if it’s important, but, for me it causes me to wonder why so many people are insistent on making English the official language of the United States. For that matter, why, there was such an outcry about the first Cheerios commercial that featured an interracial couple, or the recent Coke™ commercial that had different groups of people signing America The Beautiful in their native tongue. Then there is what Ted Nugent calling the President, a “subhuman mongrel.” I can only image what he would call the family I’m watching.
As a society, we have many problems, and we have significant tendency to get upset when people don’t agree with us. But recently I’ve witnessed a major uptick in the vitriol and quickness to become offended and the slightest perceived provocation. It’s as if people are like a coiled rattlesnake ready to strike at anyone who stumbles across their path.
This unbridled rush to prove oneself right and denounce anyone who disagrees with them causes them to resort to vicious name calling and accusation. No longer are people willing to discuss and debate. It’s either you agree with me, or you’re against me. I ask, when did this happen?
But let me circle back to the rhetorical question raised earlier, why is this important? As an expert in leadership and innovation, this is a challenge that leaders and managers have to deal with in the workplace. People bring their feelings and beliefs with them when they show up for work. Despite the old adage of leave personal problems at home when at work, the reality is that just doesn’t happen.
For managers and leaders, they face a constant challenge of dealing with the entire gamut of human emotions. With the demands to perform at breakneck speeds, it’s little wonder people become argumentative and intolerant of differences. But, that doesn’t mitigate the requirement to embrace the diversity that people bring to the workplace. If anything by actually embracing the differences people bring to our lives, we will be better for it as it opens us up to see the expansiveness that differences offer us. The manager who can truly utilize all the assets they have is a manager who will be the most productive.
The family I was observing has left, and I can only say that I feel a bit richer for having the opportunity to witness their conversation. It’s provided with a memory that I can call up reference regularly when talking about the need to value and embrace diversity.
The challenge to you, is, can you bring forth such a memory? I hope you can.
© Timothy A. Wilson 2017