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.
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.