In response to the posts on Anonymous Letters, a reader writes:

“There is a saying, ‘Sticks and stones will break my bones but words can never hurt me.’

I don’t know who wrote this, but words do hurt. At the same time, I hope that once I’ve had the chance to think the situation over that I can release the hurt I felt and look at what was said to me through new eyes. For me, words said in person hurt me much more than words said anonymously in a letter, on some message board, or through some other media.

Something I am learning about myself through Lead Your School is that I feel more compassionate toward a person who offends me personally. It’s that when I perceive someone’s words are offensive to someone else, or a group of people, I become more passionate and assertive about expressing my beliefs from a place of power that comes from within.

So while at first we might read someone’s anonymous words and give some credence to those words unconsciously, I would hope that through careful thought and introspection that one would regain their own power and use it for peaceful, thoughtful resolution.

SC Response
As the target of many anonymous complaints, I don’t give them a second thought. I live by my words, ideas, and actions (as do most Principals). I share them freely and I will discuss and debate them with anyone, at anytime. But if someone doesn’t have the courage, fortitude, conviction and/or intelligence to state, defend and debate their case, they have not met the professional obligation necessary to receive a fair forum for their issue. Interestingly, I once had a Superintendent tell me that in my case, anonymous letters were legitimate because I was so quick and well read that in a fair debate, I always won. Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when he was fired.

However, like the reader, if someone signs the letter, or even better, stands up and speaks in person, I will take notice. I may not change my course of action, but at least I am empathetic to their concern. And due to their conviction, I am more likely to seek out their input in the future.

As a leader, I generally don’t have to look very far to find someone who will agree with me. Throw a rock and you will hit somebody. On the other hand, a person with a well-reasoned, contrary position is worth their weight in gold. Or as Dr. John Sawyer told me in one of our first meetings (when I worked for him), my primary job was to keep him from inadvertently walking off the cliff. You can’t do that effectively with an anonymous letter.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…