Let that Elephant Out!

EK_Vested_Elephant_image_ph1Last time I talked about Susan Scott’s Fierce Conversations and the transformative power of words on relationships. As I continued my reading I came across a host of juicy insights but one section made me think about the fierce or necessary conversations that can and should take place, but don’t.

Why? You guessed it—because the elephant is in the room! You know, the obvious truth that is either being ignored or not addressed, to the detriment of all.

Scott refers indirectly to this situation by asking “who owns the truth?” The answer: “Every single person in the company, including the entry-level file clerk owns a piece of the truth.” The message? Don’t be afraid to let everyone speak up: “To the degree that you resist or disallow the exploration of differing realities, you will spend time, money, energy and emotion cleaning up the aftermath of plans quietly but effectively torpedoed by individuals who resent the fact that their experience, opinions, and strongly held beliefs are apparently of little interest to the organization.”

Think about it; it’s all about creating an environment where reality is accurately explained—without laying blame. Simply put, it’s better to name the problem and attack it together than to blame the problem.

This is why I am so adamant about putting any elephants in the room. As Scott says, it “takes a certain fearlessness to make your private thoughts public. But if what you’re thinking makes you squirm and wish to wriggle away, you are probably onto something.”

Scott provides a helpful questionnaire to help let that inner elephant out.

Grade out how true these statements are, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being entirely false and 10 being entirely true):

– There are no undiscussables in our company/family.

– There are no hidden agendas in our company/family.

– During meetings we say what we think, invite differing views, and explore one another’s thinking.

– There is permission in our company/family for everyone to “show up.”

– When lost in the complexity of a new situation, we pay close attention to new and unfamiliar aspects rather than take only those actions that will put things back on a track we already know.

If you are sitting on your hands, not speaking up, and maybe wriggling a little in discomfort about what needs to be said—it’s time to show up and put the elephant in the room.


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