The “I Didn’t Want To Say Anything” Syndrome


I don’t like to cook and so I’m lucky that I’ve got a neighborhood bistro I enjoy. The servers know my usual order and the food is way better than anything I could rustle up.

The place used to have a manager who I’ll call, “Louis.” He treated customers as friends, but in an annoying kind of way. He would stand too close to the table, lean in too closely when telling a “joke,” and he talked incessantly, even after food arrived at the table. He had no sense of boundaries and wouldn’t / couldn’t take a hint.

Oddly, no one complained and that includes me. People simply stopped coming in (doesn’t include me). Eventually, Ellen, the owner, figured “it” out and let Louis go. Customers returned, but Ellen was puzzled. Why hadn’t anyone said anything to her since she could have taken action sooner?

Maybe it’s because I’m from New York and am used to neighborhood “characters,” but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to simply stop coming in because of Louis. Besides, I always brought a book and used it as a shield.

So why did people not want to tell Ellen about Louis? She asked returning regulars and some claimed they didn’t want to be responsible for him losing his job. Seems it never occurred to them that if they stopped giving Ellen their business, she wouldn’t have money to pay his salary!

Other customers gave the vague reason that they “didn’t feel comfortable saying anything.” It was easier to stay away from a place they enjoyed than complain.

Ya know, we can all be so odd!

What about you? Is there something you’ve thought about telling someone and you’ve opted to just say nothing – and, instead have opted to talk about the situation with anyone and everyone other than the person who should hear what you’ve got to say?

I recently coached a team of four managers who work in the same department. I asked them to suggest how communication could flow smoother among them. Ideas ranged from replying faster to email to socializing after work so as to get to know each other better.

The youngest of the group, a woman, said that they needed to have more direct lines of communication. On the job less than six months, she’s already afraid to go directly to two of her colleagues as she finds them intimidating. Instead, she goes to the remaining member of the team who usually can’t help her, but who lends a sympathetic ear!

Having a difficult conversation is never easy. In my next column, I’ll offer tips and tricks on how to talk to someone when you’d do anything to avoid the conversation!

Please send your questions to JP Reynolds at:

Follow me on Twitter: @jprweddings

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