“But I Didn’t Say Anything!” (you cannot not behave)

Has this ever happened to you?

You’ve been minding your own business and a co-worker, “Susan”, comes to you and starts talking about another co-worker, “Bob” (who isn’t in the room). She is complaining about his behavior.

Since you don’t like what you hear, you don’t say anything and eventually Susan walks away.

A bit later, yet another co-worker, “Larry”, comes to you and says he just heard something negative about Bob from Susan and had been told that you had agreed with her.

You’re shocked because…

1. You didn’t say anything

2. Susan had inaccurately misrepresented you

3. It wasn’t true

This is how quickly communication can break down and go wrong. And, it’s the way rumor mills can start throughout companies.

What happened?  After all, you didn’t say anything to Susan.

At least, you thought you didn’t say anything. But, your silence said it all.

Here’s why…

You cannot NOT behave.

In other words “not behaving” is a behavior.

In this case, your silence was a behavior – it was confirmation. Even if you didn’t intend to agree, you agreed by default.

That’s because Susan’s INTENT was to discredit Bob and, chances are, the reason she came to you in the first place was to get your support. This is probably the same reason she went to Larry and had the same conversation with him.

So, when you didn’t say anything to Susan, her conclusion was that you agreed with her – because if you didn’t agree, you would have said so.

Here’s how to avoid this in future…

Don’t ever say nothing.

Because saying nothing is a “behavior” – which means it’s saying something.

Instead, start by APPROPRIATELY inquiring why Susan came to you instead of talking directly with Bob if her questions were about Bob’s behavior.

Ask what her PURPOSE (or INTENT) was in coming to you instead of Bob.

This may be uncomfortable for you.

However, if you want to MAKE SURE you are not misrepresented in future, you may have to manage your discomfort – in order to communicate accurately, effectively, and clearly.

One thing is certain – none of us can ever do NOTHING because “doing nothing” is actually doing SOMETHING.