I desperately want to know what causes people to tell others things that might be important to them, while other people in the same situation refuse to speak. The last time you sat across the table from someone who had lettuce in their teeth, did you tell them? What would keep you from telling them?  

There is a kind of powerlessness that invades our minds causing us not to speak up. This powerlessness typically dictates taking the path of least resistance in order to avoid pain. The thought process sounds something like: “Even if I say something, no action will be taken.” “I’m not going to say anything, it’s none of my business.” “I don’t want this to come back to bite me.”  Because we are avoiding real or imagined pain, the bullying continues, the mistake gets printed, the direction takes a bad turn.

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Anytime people feel silenced there is a something about the system itself that supports the silence.  Creating culture that promotes speaking up will involve being intentional. 

  • Talking about our weaknesses, which allows others to recognize we need their strengths.
  • Being frank about our need to hear dissenting opinions. If the room feels the need to agree, we’ve lost our absolute best source of information and ideas.  
  • Purposefully being around people who are different from us — from a different place, season, culture. If everyone in the room looks, acts, and feels like us, we will make the same mistake we’ve always made because there is no one coming from another vantage point.  

If we don’t say a word, everything will stay the same — including our powerlessness.  What will it take for you to learn to speak up with compassion and kindness on the important issues?

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

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