The right to remain silent...

Why this isn't always the right thing to do.


Social media has enabled us to interact with those we might never have met, and in most cases I find this enthralling and incredible. To be able to connect with someone over a shared passion or interest is always a buzz! The downside is it also allows us to become the judge and jury and to comment quickly and easily in the moment, often when highly charged about something and when we don’t have all the facts. I find it fascinating reading comments on controversial posts on FB and I often read adamant statements about facts and evidence and so on and so on. I often get fired up myself, which is even funnier as I know my intention right away! It’s to make a statement and to supposedly educate people! How arrogant is this assumption? How do I know what these faceless people need to know? How can I begin to make the assumption that what I say is anything they want to hear?



In my various positions during my career, in terms of people skills, I spend a lot of time reflecting – on my behaviour, my choice of words and my effort to build a connection. My work is all about change and enabling change to occur for my client’s best interests. In order for something to change, I have to do something differently, even if it’s simply looking at a situation differently! If I am wanting to get others to do things differently, my starting point is usually to find agreement somewhere, anywhere in order to start building a connection and create a shared perspective however small.



Here are my top 4 ways to influence change without argument or extreme efforts on your part;


1. Breathe and decide your sincere outcome. Honestly most of the time I feel I just want to show I have an opinion that is worthy!

2. Speak from a neutral stand point – find agreement somewhere if the need to reply is important – leave the other person feeling heard and understood and respected

3. Live the message you want to convey daily!

4. Write about it or speak about it in a conversational manner as I am doing now – avoid emotional language and keep the conversation light


Let’s look at a hypothetical example;

Someone disagrees with your post about how animal welfare and training in zoos is making such a difference. She states animals shouldn’t be in zoos in the first place - her feelings will not be changed by more facts being brought forward. Just as we are strong in our own beliefs and opinions about "facts" so is she.


In this case, I need to question my ultimate outcome – #1 - which was to connect with her and others and share some good news. Her reply suggests I am not sharing good news to her. So, I need to go to #2 – and possible agree and say “You may be right.” And immediately I have defused the attack

Basic aikido principles and military tactics are invaluable! Some of the best negotiating is done by first finding agreement! Again, ask yourself what is your outcome here? If it's to change her mind then you're doomed However if it's to change how she feels about you and conflict and how people can interact rationally during a disagreement, then there’s a window of opportunity for future change. Sometimes we are not privy to the change for that person, and we may feel we have been trampled over or even ignored however never assume you know the outcome. Don’t under estimate little nudges… Look for the smallest way in - the initial step towards change is through building relationships- we become more open to accepting new information from people we like and know and who have shown us compassion or respect.



Our possible reply could look like this….

Hi there, I hear what you’re saying – it is sad that zoos are needed in order for people to interact and care about animals that they can’t see in the wild easily. It’s great that zoos are up-skilling their staff and placing the welfare of the animals first and foremost. This post has sparked some great conversations about an obviously sensitive topic. Thank you for your thoughts


Defuse the situation by finding some agreement somewhere and you will be surprised at the outcomes – alternatively you could simply remain silent! The power of silence can't be over-estimated however wherever possible I try to connect and leave the door open so to speak. Ideally I want to continue my relationship with this person; as once the door is closed so is my power of influence.



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