Engage Management

Project Success Stories

The Silent Consent Theory

by Jimmie Hart

Recently I had the privilege of listening to a message delivered during a TAG program in Durango, Colorado. The message delivered was very powerful and full of insight into what we as consultants deal with continually. While the overall theme of the message related to daily routines and/or our commitment to do the right thing, one particular subject stuck in my mind, "Silent Consent." After some conversation with reference to the topic I found myself pondering the question, "How do we as consultants deal with this theory?" We must prioritize our direction and/or our assertiveness tailored to our goals both long term and short. I realized that I am a regular practitioner of this theory, and what bothered me most was my inability to prevent giving my silent consent without jeopardizing my effectiveness.

After talking to several of my peers, I discovered that I was not the only professional behavioral coach to reach this dilemma. As it turns out, it is pretty much a daily struggle for all of us to accomplish our goals without showing silent consent. These are some of the points I pondered while I searched for answers to my dilemma:

Needless to say, I talked myself into a circle that I thought would never end. But after some time I determined that the answer is simple if we are looking at the problem from the proper perspective. We, as behavioral consultants, must adhere to a set of standards that exceed what we see demonstrated. We must set examples to be followed by others. We must not allow ourselves, nor those around us, to become part of the silent consent process, as the negative connotations affect not only ourselves but also all of those we strive so hard to teach. Instead of being passive and "picking our battles," we must be passively assertive and use the silent consent theory as a tool to teach others how to impact a bad situation with positive results. Please understand that I am not suggesting to you that neither I nor any of my peers would have ever allowed potentially harmful actions to take place without intervention. But, we have all at some time or another witnessed behavior not conducive to proper work ethic and failed to intervene. This thought process usually is considered to be the principal of picking your battles. I believe that what I have learned is that every day is a battle and to let any one opportunity to point out the right thing pass by is an injustice to ourselves, our clients and the audience we seek to inspire.

In short, I believe that there is no room in our business for "Silent Consent." I do believe that as consultants we must practice the principle of visibly coaching to the positive and recognizing when things go right. This, however, to me, does not include simply allowing unacceptable situations to pass. By not allowing yourself to participate in the practice of "silent consent" from the inception of your project, you can and will avoid later obstacles by being known for your commitment to doing the right thing all the time, not just when it is convenient or deemed beneficial to your overall goal.

I hope some of you will benefit from this article. It is certainly my intention to point out to all the impact this subject had upon me. I was deeply affected by the conversation in Durango as well as my inability to discover on my own the correct answers. I fully believe the only answer is that detailed above; Silent Consent can never be accepted as a practice at any time within any project. I welcome and solicit all feedback. I concede that I don't have all the answers but I am actively looking for more.

Jimmy W. Hart NREMTP