Scott’s Thoughts: The Unsaid

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter F. Drucker (1909-2005); professor, writer, management consultant

Image of a man's closed mouth.There’s a huge pressure to quickly settle conflict and come to consensus in business. A certain capitalistic pragmatism seems to demand at every turn that we “quickly and efficiently” address issues, find mutual agreement, and move on.

Unfortunately, this drive can often cause a breakdown in our ability to truly listen to the core issues at hand. Rather than building consensus, we find ourselves pitching our case, doggedly trying to persuade someone. This isn’t really consensus building. This is trying to short-cut complex conversation.

When you’re engaged in this, you’re missing the most important part of communication: The Unsaid.

The Unsaid is where silences creep in, where unspoken reservations lie, where there’s a nasty burr in the wood that should be carefully sanded down before painting signatures on the bottom line. You’ll know you’re missing The Unsaid when you find yourself throwing out phrases like, “You would logically agree that…” and “If you assume [this condition] then you have to accept [that condition].” If you’re jockeying to work someone through a network of “yes” answers, you’re probably running afoul of The Unsaid.

Do so at your own peril! Here’s what will inevitably happen: The agreement you forge will blow up in your face later. What was “settled by logic” will come undone because there was a mutual failure to address The Unsaid.

Though it may seem slow and inefficient, take the constructive route: Build space for reflection, for noticing resistance and doubt, for parting company and thinking things over. Let The Unsaid express itself over time and work it through collaboratively. It’s the only way to build durable consensus and long-term respect for contrasting perspectives.


Please support the partners who make Tuesday Tactics possible:


No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.