Coughing is Heckling
A good post from Seth Godin the other day.
I would add also — as Seth does — that silence can be heckling, too.
For example, with our 16-month-old, we know that if there are certain behaviors that he shouldn’t be doing, one strategy to root them out is to ignore them. The things that you ignore tend to go away. The things that you reinforce you tend to get more of.
The problem is that if you are silent about good things, you can end up (inadvertently) stamping them out as well. And not just with toddlers. Here’s how Godin puts it:
. . . Just like it’s heckling when someone is tweeting during a meeting you’re running, or refusing to make eye contact during a sales call. Your work is an act of co-creation, and if the other party isn’t egging you on, engaging with you and doing their part, then it’s as if they’re actively tearing you down.
This is one reason, I think, that the Bible is replete with passages to encourage one another and build one another up. We are to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and “encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:24-25) and “speak only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29) and “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:12).
If you aren’t actively building people up, there is a sense in which you may be inadvertently tearing them down. I don’t want to say that that is always the case, of course. But we should definitely be alert to the possibility that, sometimes at least, failure to encourage is to discourage. Our general bent toward one another should be to take every opportunity that we can (and makes sense) to build people up.
Here’s Godin’s whole post:
The other night I heard Keith Jarrett stop a concert mid-note. While the hall had been surprisingly silent during the performance, the song he was playing was quiet and downbeat and we (and especially he) could hear an increasing chorus of coughs.
“Coughs?,” you might wonder… “No one coughs on purpose. Anyway, there are thousands of people in the hall, of course there are going to be coughs.”
But how come no one was coughing during the introductions or the upbeat songs or during the awkward moments when Keith stopped playing?
No, a cough is not as overt or aggressive as shouting down the performer. Nevertheless, it’s heckling.
Just like it’s heckling when someone is tweeting during a meeting you’re running, or refusing to make eye contact during a sales call. Your work is an act of co-creation, and if the other party isn’t egging you on, engaging with you and doing their part, then it’s as if they’re actively tearing you down.
Yes, you’re a professional. So is Jarrett. A professional at Carnegie Hall has no business stopping a concert over some coughing. But in many ways, I’m glad he did. He made it clear that for him, it’s personal. It’s a useful message for all of us, a message about understanding that our responsibility goes beyond buying a ticket for the concert or warming a chair in the meeting. If we’re going to demand that our partners push to new levels, we have to go for the ride, all the way, or not at all.