Last weekend, millions of women and men gathered around the world to march and voice concerns about the direction the USA is heading under a new and very different administration. Critics of the Woman’s March effort say it won’t last, it will go the way of Occupy Wall Street and other grand gestures and attempts to effect change. We hope not, but why is that so often true?
Judith E. Glaser, organizational anthropologist, would say it’s because humans are biologically and socially wired to fit in and avoid rejection. Often at the expense of our unique voices, range of choices, potential for having impact, and even our health. In some situations, our physical survival depends on it. In more situations, social capital is awarded or revoked depending on who one aligns with.
Like many, Judith spent some of her youth experiencing rejection. “I was thrown out of two camps when I stepped over the line and orchestrated ‘raids to the boys’ bunks’ for fun. I was put on dunce chairs for speaking up too much in first grade and was made to stay after school for asking ‘why’ too much in fifth grade. Being rejected, thrown out, or having my voice suppressed has been one of the top three ‘fight back’ themes in my life.”
Now, Judith channels her considerable energy into studying the dynamics and costs of rejection and helps clients conquer their fear of it, so they can free up their voices, increase their life choices, move forward and contribute candidly and constructively in their companies, communities, and beyond.
How Do We Know What We Most Want to Say?
Maggie Kuhn is best known for her memorable quotes and for founding, at age 65, the Gray Panthers, an organization that advocated for senior citizens’ rights. She felt compelled to do so, because following a significant activist career including, ironically, participating in the first White House Conference on Aging in 1961, she was forced to retire in 1970 from her job at the United Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. due to it’s mandatory retirement policy then in place. Although she knew it was coming, she said “I suddenly felt wounded and angry at having been sent out to pasture to get lost. Then I figured there must be thousands of old people just like me, and so I decided the time was ripe for us to fight back.”
In both these cases, personal negative experiences catalyzed these women to pursue positive gains for themselves and others in an informed, courageous and sustained manner.
Are You Ready to Speak Up? Six Things To Consider.
1.) What annoys (outrages) you most? Educational or workplace inequalities? Violence against women? The Food Desert in local communities? Ageism? Chances are you or someone you love has been affected by it. Making it personal has fueled many to form a hypothesis and then begin the hard work of educating themselves, meeting practitioners on the front lines, listening to the ‘other side’, and gaining an understanding of how their unique skills and voice can contribute.
2.) What skills do you bring to the table? Everyone has something to contribute. Are you a writer? Photographer? Speaker? Sales person? Designer? Moderator? Chef? Are you a mom who has organized and managed a household and family? Volunteered to run the PTA website and led in your church? Do you have deep community contacts? Relationships with the press? Are you a CEO who can inspire and mobilize a team around a common vision? Are you a social media sage? Any of these skills qualifies you for community and campaign organizing, event marketing, project management, fund raising, and more to further your candidate, your run for office, or your cause.
3.) Who do you need to influence? Who holds the power? The board? State legislators? Social media influencers? This is where many fall away, because it necessitates getting close to the institutions of power and reaching out to the power-full, and this can intimidate us and turn our stomach. Which leads me to the next point.
4.) Who do you need in your corner? You will need community. ReBoot Connect Director, Chrissie Kremer wrote a wonderful blog post about The Comfort and Catalyzing Power of Connection and the role community plays in our lives. Find your tribe. Join or develop a micro-circle around your cause or issue. Learn how the system works and who you to need to be speaking to. Often. Then develop a disciplined plan of gathering together and executing the plan. #bettertogether has never rung more true.
5.) How will you survive the criticism? Good girls don’t change the world. Gains for some are perceived as losses by others. Most people don’t want to think or change. And we are all tired. So now what? When criticisms come there are alternatives. First, you can simply ignore it. That’s for the strong and seasoned. Next, you can return to your micro-circle and they will remind you how great you are. Finally, you can reflect on the criticism, determine if there is anything you can learn from it, make adjustments, and move forward. And remember, the impact of the criticism is directly related to the source of the criticism. Don’t waste your time on trolls or people who are nay-sayers no matter what.
6.) Now what? Call your congresspeople. Or become one. Put your money where your mouth is and donate to your cause. Stop your patronage of those who violate your values. Tip your servers/hotel cleaners/taxi drivers a minimum of 20%. Make your home a sanctuary for more. Be kind to people of more colors, countries, abilities, religions, and orientations; because they could be worried. Follow and learn from thought leaders on LinkedIn or Twitter. Like, comment, or reshare articles that support your cause and position. Or leave a constructive negative comment for something that doesn’t. Do something. The point is you are known by what you DO, not what you think.