Monday, 5 July 2010

Speaking Up When it Matters

Have you ever been in a situation where people began speaking about others who were not there? Or in a conversation where people began saying inappropriate things that made you uncomfortable?
I think that it happens to all of us. The question is; how do we respond, or more importantly how do I respond? That is my lesson to learn.
I know what I want my responses to be. I want to stop the conversation about the other people. I don't want to create a bunch of conflict, but I want to make it clear that I find the conversation unacceptable. I may even have had the same experience. However, I don't want to carry on my disagreement about someone else's behaviours behind their back. I also don’t want to be initiating these types of conversations.
When people are talking about others who are not there, I want to say “I’m not comfortable with this conversation.” Or, if I am not actually an active part of the discussion then I have to decide do I intercede, or do I remove myself from the location? Because if I stay, but don’t say anything it is like I am suggesting I agree with what they are saying. It is also an invitation to them to speak in that way and in my presence again and again.
I want to stand for my values instead of become silent in my discomfort. I want to voice how I find the statements unacceptable and then move forward. Sometimes I’ve gotten so stuck in worrying about not hurting the feelings of the person who was making the unsuitable comments, I haven’t been able to find the words to state my discomfort about the inappropriateness of their comments.
Having the courage to say I am uncomfortable, or to simply say the conversation is unacceptable especially to certain people is easier said than done. There are the people whom I care for that I don’t want to offend, which is ironic, because there is always that underlying concern. If they are talking that way about someone, will they be like that when I am not present? In any case, I can’t control their behaviour. I can only control my own. This is why it is a lesson for me to learn. The bottom line is that I don’t want to be the one who people have to wonder about and make them question whether or not I will be talking about them when they are not present.
It’s more than that, however. It’s nice to have people think well of me, but really this is about feeling good in my own skin. I simply don’t want to be in a conversation where people are talking about someone who is not there. Therefore, I need to learn how to either leave, change the topic, or better yet, state that I am uncomfortable speaking about that person. Above all, I can't be this type of conversation starter.
If this is so important to me, am I willing to stand in my values, watch my words and speak up for the person who is absent? So, the question is, am I willing to stand in my values? Are they more than a list of important things? Do I actually have the courage live them even in the difficult times? If my values are respect of others, of maintaining the dignity of others and of recognizing that all people are of value...then the true test of whether or not these really are my values is to live them.

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