There are three things that can happen when you start speaking up. Whether within your friend and family circle, at work or on social media.
The first thing that can happen is that nobody cares. Or at least nobody responds or acknowledges your point of view or thought in any way. That can feel bad in the moment but only if you are making up a story around it. In reality it could be that nobody saw it, or they didn’t hear you. It could be that the way you communicated didn't resonate with people and you have to try again. No response doesn't necessarily mean a lack of interest. We can work with no response.
The second thing that can happen is you draw towards you those who agree or need to hear your message. They may add to your point, or thank you for saying it out loud. This feels really good, because it makes us feel like we belong. We think, See? I’m not the only one who feels this way or needs to hear this message. This is usually our motivation for speaking up in the first place. We want to connect with others who feel the same way. And we want to find out who those people are.
The third thing that can happen is that someone or even many people disagree with you. This could range from a healthy counter argument, to an attack on your logic, to at worse, a personal insult. This again, feels bad. And by bad I mean anywhere from stinging a little in the moment to causing you to ruminate all night over that person who said that thing.
The question is what do we do in each of these situations? How do we best respond?
If we feel like nobody cares, do we stop sharing what we think? Or do we find new ways to get our message across? Or a new room to say it in?
If we get the support we were hoping for, do we become more rigid or righteous with our message? Or do we continue to stay open to other ideas and points of view that might challenge us in the future?
If we face those that completely disagree, perhaps even in a hurtful way, do we either lash out or shut up? Or do we try to see if there is something to take from the message and then release the rest?
And of course I am now going to bring this back (full circle) to something specific that happened this week. :)
In June I delivered my workshop, Rediscover Your Inner Spark to employees at a Fortune 500 company here in Canada. Almost 2000 people attended virtually. It was beautiful to connect with so many souls about a topic that I feel so passionate about, even though I couldn’t see a single one of their faces.
Afterwards, the team who organized the workshop sent out a survey. I received a 4.6/5 rating and the comments were overwhelmingly positive.
One person took the time to write some feedback that was an honest reflection of how they experienced the workshop. They may not have known whether I’d receive this feedback directly. Perhaps if they’d known, they would have worded it differently, but then again, maybe not!
The feedback was harsh. Critical of the workshop and even critical of me.
Ouch. It hurt! In the moment, it was difficult to receive it. For most of my life I’ve struggled with a longing to be fully me while simultaneously wanting to fit in. And by fit in, I mean be liked by EVERYONE.
Can you relate?
Some of the need to be accepted is the result of painful childhood experiences where I felt deliberately left out. But let’s be real, for women especially, being liked, fitting in and being agreeable is considered a virtue. Whether at home or in the boardroom.
Yet within all women there is a voice, (a powerful one at that) that wants to burst out. She doesn’t want to hurt anyone or be offensive, but she wants to feel FREE. Free to say what she thinks, free to be who she is.
So which version of us wins out?
Anything that pricks you (or triggers you, to use common language) is also teaching you something. We just have to be willing to learn what it is.
In my case, it was first taking an honest look at her feedback to see if there was something to learn there. Then, it was deciding whether I want to adjust my message accordingly or whether I want to re-commit to it the way it is. (I recommitted!)
Next, and most importantly, it was remembering that it is impossible to please everyone. Thinking that we can is our first mistake! If we’re going to be our authentic selves in the world, there will be people who just don’t get us, or appreciate us or even like us. And that’s ok.
Seth Godin, a multiple New York Times Bestselling author and marketing guru famously pointed out that in spite of his indisputable success, he still has one and two star reviews on his books on amazon.
A friend can recommend a podcast and tell you it’s the best thing ever and you think it’s just “meh”.
A movie can win an Oscar but still bomb at the box office because no one wants to see it.
So instead of worrying about who might get us and who might not, what if we just fully showed up as ourselves? What if we just spoke up in the meeting, wrote that post on social media, did that thing we wanted to do, knowing that it won't resonate with or please everyone? What if we just let ourselves BE in the world expecting that not everyone will get us?
Imagine the true freedom that comes from releasing your spirit from the shackles of other people's opinion of you. Imagine what you would do and who you would be. Imagine where making that choice again and again could lead you.
This week, notice when you're overthinking whether to post that photo or make that counter-argument in a meeting or ask for something you want. Notice whether you're trying to talk yourself out of something that initially felt natural to you. And in that moment decide to trust yourself and go ahead and do it.
Try it once and let me know how it felt.
Kena (Founder, All You Are)