I’ve been thinking today about the unspoken messages we receive in most relationships. Some of these messages may be very positive and encouraging and some may be quite negative. For instance, one of the unspoken messages in many homes goes something like this: "This is a warm, inviting, safe place. Welcome home!" In some families, the unspoken message is negative: "This is a chaotic, unstable place. You never know what will happen or how people will treat you. Do not discuss this issue or acknowledge that it exists!"
Likewise, friends, ministers, school teachers, employers, etc. can all communicate unspoken messages.
From the friend: "You can’t depend on me. I told you that I would call you back but this doesn’t mean I am really going to call you." In contrast, the unspoken message from another friend may be "When I tell you I will meet you for lunch at 12:00, I will be there. I respect you and your time too much to keep you waiting."
From the minister: "Don’t disagree with me. To disagree with me means you are not loyal. Anyway, I am the expert, and I know better than anyone else around here what ought to be done." In contrast, another minister may communicate this unspoken message, "I believe in you and am not threatened when you are growing and learning."
I could give other examples, but I suspect you have your own examples. One thing for certain, we do communicate unspoken messages to other people.
What are some unspoken messages you have received from others? Can you recall some unspoken messages that seemed to drown out and contradict the message being spoken?
(John Ortberg’s article entitled "Your Hidden Curriculum," which appears in the Winter 2009 print edition of Leadership, contains some of these seed thoughts.)