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Monday, February 09, 2009

Screaming & Yelling

Have you ever noticed that when people raise their voices and say things with an accusing tone --- their ears seem to close up? I’m serious. It’s as if their ability to hear has temporarily shut down. Otherwise sane, rational individuals whom you might regard as pleasant and have great respect for – somehow find it useful to speak in vulgar tones (if not words) when they are angry. Rarely do they apologize for their bad behavior either.

I work in the financial services (banking) industry. Quite frankly, I’m running into a lot of flared tempers lately. People are getting angry and flying off the handle at each other. They seem like reasonable people. But they are behaving like desperate people. I wonder what makes them so desperate. Then too, I wonder if they are as desperate as they act. (I doubt that they are.)

Often the perceived consequences that they are screaming about wouldn’t really be any worse if they didn’t scream and yell. In other words, the screaming and yelling, the vulgar language and disrespectful behavior toward one another seems to do precious little to improve the circumstances. (Do they know this?)

Often it seems like the worst consequence … in the mind of the angry and intimidating, is that they may be perceived as failures, or have their livelihood threatened. Could that be such an intimidating proposition as to cause people to violate even their own standards of behavior? Even if it is, isn’t that a little selfish of them to put their consequences first? Isn’t it a little cowardly of them to be so willing to throw others under the bus in order to save themselves?

I’ve heard it said that troubled times bring out the worst in people. It’s said that dire situations will expose the true nature and character of someone. I believe this is especially true of leaders in charge at the time of the crisis. If they trust in the Lord, if they truly love others, if they fear nothing --- their response will be tempered and moderate. On the other hand, if they are afraid of their own shadow, if they most love themselves and if they don’t trust God to lead them and care for them --- they will resort to screaming and yelling.

Yes, these are challenging times in the banking world. They are challenging economic times in every industry, worldwide. They are challenging times in government. And these are the times that will test the souls of the leaders. They may even test the souls of the followers too!

Listening to someone scream and yell exacts its own toll on all of us. Whether the rebuke, public reprimand or whatever you call it directed at us or now, if we are in listening range we are impacted by it. When it is directed at us, the impact is that much greater. And I'm not talking about a positive impact either.

I've talked to some of these yellers before, and challenged them about it. They will most often respond by pointing out how wrong the other person is. They will exclaim that he or she has done something to raise their ire and at least insinuate that the individual(s) "had it coming." In other words, they will logically and rationally try to explain how the party they were screaming and yelling at deserved it --- thus justifying their poor leadership.

The next time you’re finding yourself raising your voice at someone because they “obviously don’t get it” or “need to get a sense of urgency,” consider what other messages your behavior is sending. Consider what messages your behavior is sending about your leadership.

More importantly, consider seriously the cost of those messages. Screaming and yelling at others is not free. So if you're going to do it, you might want to understand the price.

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