People who are quiet and those around them are both trying to navigate a tricky situation. Here’s what to keep in mind when someone is quiet. This is important for inclusion and the best decision-making where all voices are heard.
When I was young and could hardly get words out of my mouth, I also knew I had so much to say. I was nervous to speak and I didn’t understand all of what was going on for me.
Later, as an adult, I wasn’t usually as caught up in the fear of speaking, but I was still an introvert and we tend to prefer thinking before speaking. I still had a lot to say, but it was hard to find my words while in a group setting, especially at work where the stakes were higher. Know what I mean?
I gotta say this right off the bat. This is important, for the greater good, and for people you know and love:
Please do NOT assume silence is a lack of something important to say. You just might need to pause and listen, even if you feel impatient.Obviously this really matters to me, so pardon if I sound like I’m preaching. Trying to speak some truth. Bear with me.
Pausing Is Part of Being Inclusive.
Introverts like to think before speaking. Which is hard to do when others keep talking.
Inclusion, where the best decisions are made, means we all need to listen more and make sure everyone is heard.
I hear so many people say they have a lot to say but that it’s hard for them to think and interrupt in most kinds of meetings where there are no pauses. I hear this especially from introverts, women, and people of color.
When It’s Extra Hard To Speak Up
I know all too well that it’s especially hard when you worry that what you want to say won’t be popular or expected. Right? Ugh. Ouch when it goes badly. It’s a big deal. (In reality, it usually doesn’t go badly but it can still be scary to get started.)
Want to bring up sexism, racism, or money for instance? Those are some land mines for sure. Lordy, I know this one. It’s hard!! What I learned from those tough ones: Don’t go it alone.
Let’s keep trying, OK?
On both sides — more listening by some, and more speaking up by the quieter folks.
I don’t mean to say “just do it.” Changing our behavior around listening or speaking is not easy. It’s a muscle to grow over time, by taking small steps, practicing with a friend, and when it’s a tough one, find your allies first and don’t go it alone.
We won’t get it perfect, and that’s OK. It’s worth the effort. Big gulp, and keep going. Step by step. Embrace messy!
We could all stand to work the muscles of listening, pausing, and venturing in to speaking, however imperfectly. Let’s embrace both quiet and imperfect words.
We can do this. Words will never be perfect. Listening won’t be perfect either. But I know you care about inclusion and all voices being heard. It’s worth the unsteadiness of trying on new styles. Big gulp…
My Challenges with Speaking Up
I’ve been on both sides of this. Sometimes I talk too much and need to slow down and listen. Umm, more often than I want to admit. In the past, I’ve done too little speaking and it seemed so hard to break in or find my words.
I am working on balance today. And self-compassion every step of the way. That seems to be the key to this, and well, the key to every growth experience!
#meetinghell #inclusion #speakingup #learnbytrying #imperfectionwelcome #embracemessy