Don’t yell at me.
I looked at the retired colonel in surprise. I hadn’t raised my voice.
No. But there’s more than one way to yell. Tone and intensity work almost as well as volume.
As one of those touchy-feely types said to me later over dinner, “Yeah, you yelled at him. Next time, think about what’s happening inside.” I don’t think I rolled my eyes. What’s happening inside, indeed.
But the good news was I didn’t really have to think about what was happening inside: I already knew. A person in a position of authority – not my boss boss but my project boss – had asked me for something I couldn’t do. Not in the time we had.
He was in charge and he wanted something from me and the team that was patently unreasonable. Rather than explain that, calmly, reasonably, persuasively — as would befit someone with my years of experience in this work — I yelled. Rather than search for a creative and feasible solution that would address his concerns and yet give me some time to sleep in the next week, I shut him down. Hard. I yelled. Because I was afraid.
Afraid of not performing to his expectation, however unreasonable? Afraid of not convincing him of my point of view? Afraid of just saying, “No”? Afraid of feeling forced into trying to do what he’d asked, and hang the expense to me and to the team?
Damn the torpedoes: Full speed ahead.
Yes, all of that.
What made me think of that long-ago interaction? A recent Seth blog, of course.
A “Deer Xing” sign isn’t there to tell the deer where to cross the road.
It’s there to let drivers know that this is the spot
where deer often choose to cross the road.
A good signmaker is aware of “who it’s for” and “what it’s for.”
In this case, the hope is that drivers will be more careful.
Too often, signs of all kinds (metaphorical signs, not just physical ones),
are simply ALL CAPS YELLING
about how the signmaker is frustrated about something they can’t control.
If you can’t influence something, why are you yelling about it?
I know why I’m usually yelling: I’m afraid. And the volume of my yelling is directly proportional to my feeling of helplessness.
When each side of the American partisan divide apparently thinks the country would be better off if those other people died – yes, died – I’m thinking they’re afraid, too.
Afraid of having to modify their thinking, even a little bit? Afraid of being flat-out wrong? Afraid of having to admit they’re wrong? Afraid of having to admit that they don’t have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Afraid of having to live with ambiguity and irreconcilable differences in important matters? Afraid of having to accept that good people with the same information can come to radically different conclusions? Afraid of having to change?
Yes, all of that.
When I’m yelling, I know what’s happening inside.
When a country is yelling, I’m guessing the same thing is happening.
Check out Pierce Godwin and his #ListenFirst project. Their tagline?
Courage over contempt.
I’m thinking Mr. Godwin understands about being afraid. About how it leads to yelling. And about how taking action helps us feel less powerless.