Do you suffer in silence for anyone? Do you find it helps the relationship?
It happens in business, but I’ll illustrate it with a classic case where two people suffer in silence for each other is a marriage where both parties think they work and contribute more to the relationship than the other. You can substitute a relationship between manager and report or among teammates if you prefer. Say one of the spouses works long hours and earns more money and the other takes care of the house more. The first might think the other spends their money without valuing the sacrifices they make being away from home. The second might think the other doesn’t contribute their time to the relationship like they do.
You can see how each would resent the other and feel slighted themselves. Imagine the first one had to work late a lot for a project. A few nights coming home late and missed dinners might lead to a fight where both felt they contributedÂ more and other devalued their contribution. Each suffered in silence and the other penalized them for it.
If you feel you’re suffering in silence, you’re creating problems, or at least you could solve your problems and get more credit or stop wasting your time.
I don’t mean get credit to make yourself look good. If you’re doing something you don’t like and you’re doing it for someone else, make sure they know it. Remember the most important points about mental models: we all view the world through our unique mental models so nobody sees the world the same. You can expect others will see what you consider your sacrifice differently.
What to do instead
The standard tactic is to make sure you communicate what you’re doing so others value it. I recommend starting with recognizing you may have different mental models. If you consider your working late sacrificing your time for your spouse but your spouse sees it as neglecting the relationship, saying you had to work yet longer will obviously trigger different values. You’ll value it positively while your spouse will value it negatively. Most people’s first stab at communication wouldn’t help in that situation.
The same situation could happen among teammates doing different types of work on a project, playing a sport, or in any other team context. Someone working for a manager could trigger similar situations.
I recommend first making yourself aware you might see things differently, meaning you might value things differently. This recognition alone can keep your emotions from getting intense even if you don’t agree on values.
Once you’ve made yourself aware, I recommend not trying to change the other person’s perspective, only trying to share yours. I haven’t found trying to make someone else agree effective. At the same time, do your best to understand the other person’s perspective.
If both people understand each other, the difference in perspective could lead from both condemning each other to both valuing and celebrating each other. Arguments complicate that transition. Understanding and supporting each other facilitate it. If you’re fighting I recommend feedforward. Feedforward works insanely well in such situations. If you’re not fighting, I recommend the Confirmation Cycle I describe in “How to make someone feel understood: confirm and let them correct you.”
Once you understand each other and have confirmed you both feel understood, get credit for your contribution. Tell the other person what you’re doing and what it means to you. If you work late, now that you know you both understand working late means to you that you’re making sure the rent gets paid and there’s food to put on the table, you benefit everyone by sharing you’re doing so. That way, instead of suffering in silence you’re getting the credit you deserve. The other person can do the same about their contribution. That recognition gives you both the chance to understand and give instead of judging and demanding.
Keep in mind the other person might understand you but not value your contribution. Maybe they think the relationship could make do with less income. If you’re open to their opinion, you might find the sacrifice not worth it either. Then you can keep yourself from wasting your time on something the other person doesn’t value.
Making sure you get the credit you deserve doesn’t give you extra time in the day if you’d both prefer more time together, but it does enable you to feel better about it and understand each other better.
In the end, suffering in silence for someone creates problems. Getting the credit you deserve helps the relationship or keeps you from wasting your time.
Read my weekly newsletter
On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees