Martin Luther King Jr said this in the context of many Americans not standing up against discrimination of black people and their civil rights. If there was social media in the 60s MLK would have got a lot of ‘likes’ and there may have not been a march on Washington? In normal life, we don’t care or listen to what our enemies say, but we know when our friends aren’t saying anything.
Telling people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear does not improve any situation. But this is what happens in government, in companies, in board rooms and in families. Because the truth hurts. Being open, upfront and honest may not be really good in all situations. For example, when you see your neighbour or office colleague, you wouldn’t want to say “you really look ugly today.” But when companies or politicians or regulators do something bad why is it that no one will ever comment. Even worse is we criticize the ones who talk out by saying “they’re jobless or mad!”
If subordinates or even colleagues speak honestly instead of saying what the boss wants to hear, governance can be improved, misunderstandings can be reduced to achieve better performance. In corporate situations people who know enough keep their mouths shut, to avoid confronting their boss or ‘friend’. They also think that they’re being supportive and don’t want to rock the boat. The boss is happy that everybody agrees with him, but does not notice the lower performance or lowering motivational levels.
It will take a good leader to differentiate the words of enemies and friends. To know that our friends who know enough are keeping their mouths shut, or enemies speculating because they don’t know enough to keep theirs shut is a skill many won’t have. The leaders who are humble and well grounded will not be affected, as they don’t encourage friends to be silent, nor do they look for false praise.
I’ve been to developed countries and seen consumers demand the promised quality or service from the suppliers and they get what they demand. In Sri Lanka, rarely do consumers demand and rarely do they succeed in receiving what was promised. This is due to the lethargic law & order situation and indifference inculcated into our people over the last few years where businesses without ethics are promoted. Bribery & corruption has been the King, not the customer. There will be many friends who will silently say ‘that’s life in banana republic.’ If we can get many to revolt and demand, that will become the norm and not indifference!
It’s a shame when the things that are on your mind and in your heart never reach your lips but on the other hand my opponents may say “silence is the best way to answer a fool”