The Things We Think But Do Not Say!

Do you know what movie the title above came from? Here’s a hint: The famous saying, “You complete me,” comes from the same movie. That’s right, Jerry Maguire. Today’s blog is questioning why we hold back on saying the things that matter to us.

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Jerry, played by Tom Cruise, has an epiphany in the middle of the night that ends up changing his life. In that moment he comes to the realization that his agency’s focus on getting more clients is completely wrong. Instead, he asserts, the focus needs to be put on the relationship with the current clients by providing more time, attention and caring.

Jerry’s passion for change served him well by the end of the movie, although his company pushes him out at the beginning for his radical ideas. But truthfully, isn’t it always a risk to say what we really feel? After all, honesty can be a game-changer when it comes to relationships.

One of my coaching clients was pressured to leave his position and finally decided to take another job instead of face a slow and painful death by resisting the pressure. Despite being happy that he was getting out of a miserable situation, he still had mixed feelings about whether or not he was leaving on his own terms. Was he? Wasn’t he? I guess you could spin it either way.

What was interesting, however, was what he said in our last coaching session together. He told me how surprised he was with all the heartfelt comments he received from his staff, his peers, and his superiors during his final week, as they all made a point to say goodbye.

“What do you mean?” I said.

He shook his head. “If people really felt that way about me, then why did they wait until I was leaving to tell me? I had the impression everyone wanted me out.”

I had no answer.

I come from a very loving family, although our “love” is more implied than verbally stated to one-another. In fact, the first time that I actually told my father I loved him was just hours before he passed away in his hospital bed. It seemed so easy to say at that moment…and yet why did I wait until the end before I could say it?

What is it about departures that make it easier to be authentic, honest, and loving with those people who are leaving us? Are we that authentic, honest, and loving with the people we share our lives with…who aren’t leaving?

Many companies ask employees who are leaving to give an “exit interview” with Human Resources being departing. The hope is that employees will be brutally honest about their experience at the company and provide some useful feedback as well. Sounds reasonable, right? Yet even that is not safe anymore. I just had a coaching client tell me that they decided to forgo their exit interview because they didn’t want to burn any bridges in the field. What’s ironic is that the reason they left their company was because of the dysfunctional way business was being handled…and yet they chose to remain silent.

Isn’t open and honest communication a fundamental expectation in any relationship, be it work or personal? When did it become an exception to the rule?

When I design and facilitate a team building session, my ultimate goal is to create an atmosphere of open and honest communication throughout the team, which includes manager to the team, the team to the manager, and team members to team members. What I’ve discovered is that sometimes it can take the better part of a day to build or rebuild the trust necessary to create such communication between a group of people who work with each other every day. Shouldn’t it be the reverse?

I’ve shared on my radio show many times my belief that all married couples should be required to meet with a third party therapist, minister, or coach after their fifth year of marriage in order to undergo a relationship “check-up” on everything from communication, intimacy, parenting, conflict, and lifestyle, to name a few. Maybe it should be after three years? Nevertheless, it’s a way to ensure that open and honest communication is occurring or a way to address why it’s not. It’s like a team building session for couples.

Using Jerry Maguire, we do a closing exercise in the Leading From Within program called, The Things We Think But Do Not Say. It is an opportunity for participants to single out other participants who had a special impact on them during the workshop and to tell them what that was. Of course this activity comes at the end of the program, but that’s why it works; no one holds back.

Bottom line I wish there were more Jerry Maguire’s out there. I wish we didn’t have to wait until someone was leaving before telling them how much they meant to us. I wish at work we could say what we mean and mean what we say without fear of reprisal. I wish honesty and open communication was an expectation in all relationships instead of something we are always working on.