ONE Conversation at a Time
The world has changed a lot in a year...the last time I entered a blog post!
I pause to think about how much has changed, how I've changed.
A pandemic and racial revolutions have called folks onto the carpet of what really matters internally and externally. Lip service is no longer enough. True action is what's desired. I am bursting to write today's note because I think they are intertwined.
Here's a slice of my own story.
In my family and friend's circles, I was known as "the brutally honest one." It became wide-known, if you wanted the brutal truth, "Ask Brandy, she'll tell you." And, I obliged.
Positives: in general, people believed I was telling them the truth. They trusted me to be honest about my thoughts, feelings, beliefs, etc. People relied on me as others weren't so candid.
Negatives: Oftentimes, the truth I was dropping was brutal...and I wanted nothing to do with the aftermath. It was akin to dropping verbal hand grenades. People avoided me because of the pain.
I sure was courageous... to share MY truth...so I thought.
It is courageous to speak up. It is cowardly to use "truth" as a shield to hide behind. I used my truth as a shield...think of the popular phrase, "The truth hurts." I remained blameless and refused to be held accountable for the resulting, usually negative, aftermath...all in the name of truth. The stories I'd tell myself: They needed to hear it. How could they not see it? I'm just the messenger. Nobody else was telling them! I'm a good person for speaking up.
This mimics the current climate of the day from our nation's leadership to social media to Internet trolls. Justification phrases such as "I'm just sayin'," "I'm just telling it like it is," and "Sorry, not sorry." all contribute to putting up a shield; a lack of personal accountability for what’s left over when you drop your “truth bomb.”
And, that’s the trouble…truth is subjective. Also, when you become a mouthpiece for telling hard truths, you gather others who want you to do it for them. In my family, I ran for office and was elected (as some of my wise professors used to say). I tried out this behavior, was subsequently rewarded and reinforced by family and friends to hold this position and continue the behavior. I was, quite frankly, an a$$hole.
Speaking up is courageous. Hanging in there to engage with your impact is courage magnified. Maybe you have a better term for it. Maybe it's courage matured.
Why tell this story now? As someone who did a 180°turn after becoming aware of my jerk status, I shut down and became afraid to share what was on my mind. I feared my own impact.
Fear can keep you imprisoned or show up as a self-aggrandizing shield.
This is what I sense in the world currently. We need some serious conversations and actions around race relations and our political system. Folks seem to be showing up at either end of the spectrum: spouting off at the mouth or afraid to speak up.
I’ve been at both. It doesn’t serve you, others around you, our communities, or the nation.
Find your middle. How?
Care about others, including those not like you. Yes, it’s a prerequisite if you want to manage your impact!
Anchor in care and curiosity.
Share your intention and fear, if it’s present (fear of offending, looking ignorant, losing your temper, hurting another, etc.).
Be open and willing to learn.
Check your ego. Be willing to be wrong/disagreed with.
Give your lip service. Then, stick around for how what you said affects others. That will create meaningful conversations on how to unify for change.
Brandy Boak has worked in organization development since 2007. Enhancing the "human" part of organizations has been the biggest payoff for herself and others.