A well liked manager got fired from his position. HQ advised people not to talk about it (“Don’t get involved in the politics of the company, just keep doing your job”). The atmosphere the next day was subdued. Nobody understood what had happened, so rumors were spun.
The other day, a local man was found dead at the side of the river. There are three different accounts on how he died but the police won’t provide any details. Like the community doesn’t need to know what happens in their front yard! So people go about their Business, asking no further questions.
I do a one-month coaching with a guy. On the very last day, in the last 10 minutes of our time together, he reveals he was sexually abused as a child. Why didn’t he tell me at the beginning of our session? We could have worked through it.
A teenager was brutally beaten by gang members, in the locker rooms of a local school. It was so bad he had to be stitched up at the hospital. He was told by the sports teacher: “Suck it up”. Nobody in charge said anything further about it. A gang member was said to have told him “not to be a snitch” or he’ll get another beating.
Telling people to hush something up = disempowerment. Cover-up resolves nothing. It only allows more of the undesirable thing to happen. It leaves people bereft of knowledge, closure and emotional relief. The only way to counter this kind of oppression is by speaking up openly and boldly. In so doing, you empower yourself and the people you are talking to. You make the world a more trustworthy place. Even if they disagree with your speaking up, transparency ultimately empowers everyone.
Speaking up can appear more difficult than staying quiet. But it’s only a short-term pain for a long-term gain. Cover-up is a short-term gain for a long-term pain.
In the last few weeks, a student of mine has gone through one of the roughest patches of her career for speaking up. She had been in a hush-hush environment within a company where she was the partial owner. The secretive atmosphere had been getting worse. People taking money that wasn’t theirs to take. There was backstabbing and whispered gossip. Having failed to speak up earlier, she hadn’t even clarified her share of company earnings! She came to me for coaching on “mental relaxation” due to all the “stresses at work”. But instead of doing the guided meditations she expected, I advertised for the need to speak up and be bold. All of our practice was only on that. Everyone in her work environment needed to come clean. And so she spoke up. Everyone hoped that her campaign for transparency was a one time thing and afterwards they could go back to being sneaky. The subconscious doesn’t like having a light shone into its darkest recesses. But her brave standing for truth continued. The co-owners in the company got really angry. Soon they threatened her. Funds were withdrawn and some of her partners jumped ship. A time of upheaval and uncertainty followed.
“I spoke up as you told me to, now the whole company is in disarray!” she complained to me.
“You can’t carry the torch of truth without burning a few beards” I joked. But after the dust settled, the company was at a much better place than before. It had ascended a few levels in consciousness! The people left were treating each other well. Misgivings were communicated openly but respectfully (instead of keeping them secret and then exploding in rage later). Everyone was clear on the their goals and responsibilities.
If you speak up early on, at the very first signs of trouble, then trouble has no chance to fester. Then, there is no violent revolution, just peaceful transition. When you have something to say, silence is a lie.
Speak up about things you see or experience in your immediate surroundings, work or private life. When speaking up, it is wise to not only state what you are against, but especially what reality you prefer. Speaking out against things is better than not speaking up at all, but you are more likely to succeed if you tell others not only what you are against, but what you are for.
Exercise on Speaking Up
Answer the following questions:
- When was a time you wished to say “no” but said “yes”?
- When was a time you wished to say “yes” but said “no”?
- Do you recall a time you weren’t entirely straight in your communication?
- How would you be had you been straight and clear?
- What is something you’d tell someone if you were authentic and courageous?
Answering these questions a few times can help you regain your voice and your ability to influence your reality.