“Listen to what is not said”

Posted by Brenda Yoho

The title of this post is a quote from the book I am writing. It comes from a former student. It is a powerful statement and hits the point of what needs to be our focus. In our world of noise, do we hear what is not being said?

As leaders of an organization, we have all learned very fast how to lead during a crisis. Decisions were made quickly, adaptations were made to accommodate so we could try to continue, and the best efforts were made. A great deal of confusion with mixed messages, fears, and emotions filled our spaces as we all worked to do our best to make the best of what we could.

Now we are working to lead out of a crisis with still remnants remaining and resurfacing challenges facing us as more pockets of issues develop. It seems to continue to be a crisis time for all of us, but are we able to, “listen to what is not said?”

The Room

When you enter a room, what happens? I am not asking that question thinking you receive the greeting as if you are the Queen of England. There is a protocol to follow with many rules for the Queen. I am asking in regards to how do you enter a room? Do you begin talking to others? How do people respond to you? Have you seen people who enter a room and everyone in the room reacts with smiles? These individuals brighten the room by entering.

Have you met or maybe you are the individual who truly cares about others. They ask questions, want to hear the answers, and genuinely care for others. If you watch them as they move around the room, it is so enjoyable to watch. Can they “listen to what is not said?”


Most of us do not think deeply about our interactions with others. We are so focused on the plate full of issues we have been served that we do not “see” or “hear” others. Trying to “listen to what is not said” is beyond our abilities in a world already so full. How can we change this so we can? There has to be a solution to help us be more in tune with each other.

One way to begin is by choosing to make it a priority. Next time we are in a social setting, make an effort to connect with another person. You can do this as you drive through picking up dinner. Make eye contact, tell them thank you and I hope you are having a great day. What about the grocery store? Can you make a connection and difference there? Simple Truths of Service by Ken Blanchard and Barbara Glanz is a great inspiring story of Johnny the bagger. This example of customer service, making a connection, and creating memories are priceless, in my opinion.

I utilized this book and a short video with staff development and students. Our students used Johnny’s technique as part of our Twelve Days of Compassion at Christmas. Students created their thoughts for the day and shared them with the grocery store near our school. They did not get to see and hear the customers, but we know we all made memories from the projects we did.


The message behind the statement “Listen to what is not said” is to notice all of the little things and signs we miss. It is easy to listen to loud voices and noise. You can see those who want to be seen. However, those who need to be seen and heard often hide in the shadows we have to seek out to “listen to what is not said.”

I talked to a friend who told me a program she is part of has been losing participants. They are not coming or wanting to participate. The leaders are not “listening to what is not said.” The participants are telling them they do not like what has changed.

The most crucial part is choosing to help be the solution for others by choosing to “listen to want is not said” to identify opportunities to help them decide to change their direction. We do not know the problems people face or the thoughts they have, but we do know we can choose to “listen” to the signs, the little things, and to know we can make a difference. It takes one choice, one word, one smile, one action, and one person to change the direction.

Make Moments and Memories

Take time today to make a memorable moment or a special memory. Here are some easy tips to do that will help brighten the day of another.

  • Write a handwritten letter to a friend and mail it to their home
  • While in the drive-up, pay for the person behind you.
  • At the grocery store, grab a little extra and drop it off at a shelter.
  • Pick up a puzzle, book, or flowers to drop off at the nursing home.
  • Volunteer to read at the local school or anything else they may need.
  • Cover a co-worker's job so they can leave early. (Ask the boss first)
  • Pick up your kids from school early and fly a kite! So fun!
  • Take your spouse out on a date.
  • Leave a big tip for the waitress.
  • What are other ways to create a moment or memory for others?

Understand who you serve

Take the time to learn about all you serve. Understand the “why” behind creating environments of loyalty and integrity. Helping others find a place where they know they can be heard while feeling safe and good is a critical piece. Create experiences of memorable moments and memories to provide those you serve with a reason to be part of your organization. Be authentic, match your talk with your walk and have the integrity needed to maintain a positive customer service approach.

"I only have 2 rules!"
© 2024 Brenda Yoho
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