The Elephant in the Room is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth or problem that is going unaddressed, that no one wants to discuss. It is applicable when a subject is emotionally charged and the people who might have spoken up decide that it is probably best avoided.
We have all experienced the elephant in the room—a situation where everyone avoids voicing what we are really thinking and feeling and generally sub optimising the quality of the conversation. A looming and important issue. Usually, these unaddressed issues foster confusion and make everyone distracted, preoccupied, and even fearful. These emotions consume time and impede productivity. So in a work situation where every conversation is an opportunity to lead, what are the implications of not voicing what we are really thinking and feeling?
Since we cannot be responsible for what another person thinks, does or says (or does not say) we have to start looking internally and begin a journey of noticing what role we play in creating the dynamics in the conversation and what we do that contributes to the to the outcome we get.
Let’s do a little test – Look at the questions listed below and reflect on your response.
- What did I really want to say in this conversation – what was I thinking, feeling and wanting?
- What kept me from saying it?
- What risks were there in bringing out what needed to be said?
- What risks are there for me and others by not saying what needed to be said?
- What judgements am I holding about the other person/people in the conversation and how did this affect my ability to listen?
- What is my typical response to hearing something I don’t agree with?
Your answers to these questions may reveal what is going on in you at a deeper level and that these insights could be the start of exploring the traps you fall into that contributes to “stuck” conversations.
Invite the Elephant into the Conversation
Structural Dynamics, The Theory of face to face communication based on the research of David Kantor, a leading systems psychologist, sets out how communication in face to face contexts succeeds or fails.
Most business conversations are nowhere near as powerful or directed as they need to be. As a result, issues get swept under the carpet or otherwise glossed over and not dealt with. And in many cases, conversations are dysfunctional and divisive on some level. We need to cultivate new more powerful ways of talking to each other that recognises each other’s value, addresses the issue that really matter, and gets things done – with honesty, courage and optimism.
Recognising the elephant is an important first step, but the challenge comes in addressing the elephant in a manner that enables everyone to discuss the issue comfortably and move past it. At the Houston Exchange we can help leaders develop the capacity for embracing and sustaining new leadership behaviours, particularly in relation to the quality of their conversations. Let’s bring the elephant into the room.
Read more at: Take the baseline profile