Years ago I worked a part-time job supervising young elementary kids at a before-school program. I didn’t get any training, I was just dropped in. I didn’t know what I was doing.
It was early and everyone was tired and cranky. The kids would fight with each other, complain and act up.
I found myself doing more yelling than I ever had in my life. I didn’t like what I was becoming.
Worse, I found that raising my voice wasn’t even particularly effective. It would get lost in the din of other loud voices or it just wouldn’t produce the behavior change I hoped for.
One day, I started whispering.
I don’t even know why. Maybe I was tired of shouting and the energy it took.
An astonishing thing happened. For a moment, the kids would stop what they were doing, lean in and listen. They wanted to know what I was saying instead of ignoring me.
This doesn’t work forever, of course. You have to continue saying something compelling or the kids will start tuning you out again.
That day changed everything for me. It showed me I have to mix things up and be engaging to be heard. Sometimes that meant raising my voice, sometimes that meant whispering, something that meant just listening first.
But from that experience I learned one thing’s for sure: In a room where everyone is yelling, no one gets heard.