Addressing the Elephant in the Room

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I was asked why do I always address the elephant in the room.   I was taken back by that comment but embraced it, because it is true.   Before I go on I must explain “what is the elephant in the room” for those who are not familiar with the term.   We have all been in situations that were so uncomfortable or odd that no one wants to address and “open the can of worms”.  The heaviness in the room causes all to whisper about the situation but, no one will address the issue and elicit a discussion.  

We have all worked in environments where difficult situations were not discussed openly but acknowledged by someone in the group after the meeting.   Someone says “bless their heart”, the group snickers and continue with their activity, as they whisper among themselves.   I have always found this behavior odd, and always felt I was missing something.   I have been the person who will talk about the elephant, and put it on the table, so we can all move on, no matter how uncomfortable.

I believe it reduces friction, gets things out the open, reproduces rumors, and hopefully promotes truth.   However, I have found even though the issue is opened for discussion it may still be difficult to elicit conversation about the situation.  You may not get any answers, but you have to inquire.  

Questioning and inquiring have been my mode of operation at work and at home.  It doesn’t always end well but I inquire and on occasion people get upset and words are exchanged.  Is it better to work around the elephant in the room or upset others and attempt to address the elephant?   As I have gotten older, and my emotional intelligence has sharpened I have taken on a new attitude.  I am not as curious and inquisitive as I use to be.  I am sure this is probably due to age and life experience.  

In the past, I felt I had to speak up about things that were not equitable in the workplace.  What I found, others were not willing to support me because of their own self-interest or fears even though they may have felt the same.  It was unfortunate and a hard lesson to learn.  I found people do not always appreciate the truth and would rather hear something else, even if it is not in their self interest.

On another note, there was a insurrection by the President and his follower this week. If someone had addressed the elephant in the White House, I am sure the outcome would have been different.

As I have gotten older I have decided to remove myself from these situations.  This has not always proved to be advantageous for me, BECAUSE I can imagine the outcome, which is not always positive and I feel I should speak up.  I let others rant and rave about things and realize they do not have all the facts, but I listen, and sometimes respond.  This approach has caused me physical distress, and I used to boast I would not have ulcers because I did not internalize things that upset me, to spare others feelings.

Are their feelings more important than yours or mine and should you cause yourself harm to keep others happy by keeping quiet?  I think not, the goal in life is to remain healthy and free of disease so I believe you should speak up no matter how painful it is for you and others and do the right thing.  I do realize many do not have the resolve to speak up and are willing to go along to get along. Which is unfortunate. Sometimes YOU have to address the elephant in the room, Congress are you listening? 

As a nurse, this role is essential to ensure you are keeping patients safe and healthy, but others in the healthcare area including leadership do not always want to hear what you have to say either.   How do you handle the elephant in the room, especially when you know the outcome? 

Just keeping you informed!

Published by Dr. Marilyn Crosby, PhD, MBA, MSN RN

I am an registered nurse with a variety of nursing experience in many areas of healthcare, including critical care, research, program management, quality, and complementary care. I have a passion for "all things related to health & wellness" and want to share pertinent information. Stay Well!

6 thoughts on “Addressing the Elephant in the Room

  1. For me, it depends on what best serves my peace of mind. If the topic is ultimately inconsequential or the person is closed to new ideas I leave it alone. On the other hand if the person is spreading ignorance on an important topic I’m prone to address say something.


  2. I think you summed up the elephant very well. Although, there are situations when one should open the door and let the elephant escape alone without stirring the pot. The key is knowing when and weighing the consequences of confronting the elephant in the presence of others.

    Liked by 1 person

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