Talk Is Cheap, But Silence is ….

I recently had the pleasure of hearing an amazing speaker, poet and change agent named Sekou Andrews ( He offered this insightful perspective: “When they tell you talk is cheap, tell them silence is unaffordable.”

This really stood out to me as a different perspective on TALKING VS. ACTING. Talk is cheap compared to action, but in many cases we can’t afford to be silent. Picking up where Sekou left off, let me offer, “When they tell you talk is cheap, tell them silence is deadly.”

In many situations, talk is cheap because it’s easy. However, in many other situations talk is not easy. It can be scary and sometimes dangerous. In these situations, it is important to speak up and bring the situation out of silence and into the light. Here are some examples where our silence can be unaffordable, dangerous and sometimes even deadly.

  • You witness a parent screaming and hitting their child in a parking lot. Do you speak up or walk by and mutter to yourself about the parent?
  • A manager is verbally abusing a fellow team member. Do you speak up and say “stop,” or do you talk to yourself about what a horrible manager you have?
  • You witness an act of bullying (physical and/or verbal) in your workplace, or among your friends. Do you speak up and say “enough,” or do you walk away and pretend you didn’t see it?
  • You become aware of cyber bullying on social media. Do you speak up to address the bully, or do you complain about the evils of social media?
  • You hear a friend make a racist remark or tell a sexist joke. Do you speak up or pretend to laugh while silently judging them?
  • You hear someone make judgmental comments about other people. Do you speak up, or do you let it slide?

I’d love to say that these are hypothetical situations, but you know they’re not. These are very real situations that I’ve personally experienced or someone has personally shared with me. I wish I could say that I always speak up, but sometimes I don’t – I remain silent.

Just imagine the pain that would be avoided by speaking up. Imagine the shifts that would occur if just one person (you, me or we) is willing to speak up in the face of wrong or injustice. The impact of speaking up is real and often immediate, but it’s often not easy.

In every situation, I have the choice – the choice to speak up or the choice to remain silent. And there is always a cost to silence. We won’t pretend that we can fix it all with a few words, but we can begin with this truth: “When they tell you talk is cheap, tell them silence is deadly.”

You may be asking or wondering what this has to do with leadership. Simple — the act of speaking up is an act of leadership. When the leadership moment happens, you have the choice to lead or to not lead. Seems to me the world could use a whole lot more of this courageous leadership.


  1. When you know from personal insight and familiarity with a person that emotional pain is a part of who they are, don’t let time pass without pushing your way in. When suffering leads to silence, that silence can lead to suicide.

    For this reason, in teaching people to network for a support system to help through their struggles and recognize others do the same, I have used “Silence is Deadly” for years.

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