the inspiration blog

Posts Tagged ‘speaking up

I was planning on posting something different today – on how to talk to your ideal clients. I will do so… but right now there is only one thing on my mind. So I wrote this up, and also created a short video about it.

If you haven’t been following the story, here’s the background. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot 6 times and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. And a grand jury just decided to not indict Wilson.

I live in Oakland, California, which has a bad rap for being a dangerous unsafe place – if you’re not from here. In actuality, Oakland has both posh, upscale neighborhoods as well as poor, economically-challenged areas; it’s also one of the most diverse communities in the country even as it’s rapidly being gentrified via the San Francisco Bay Area’s skyrocketing housing prices.

Tonight, I met with a group of friends in an 18th floor apartment one of them has, just a short walk from my home. From our safe (and, definitively privileged) location, we watched protests, police in riot gear, and hundreds of people streaming onto the freeway and stopping traffic. As I write this, the sound of helicopters is omnipresent. Similar protests are happening across the United States.

Many people in my community reading this live outside the United States; or, you may be in the U.S. but feel far away from the issue. Unfortunately, while we have a black president, we by no means live in a “post-racial society.” Unconscious prejudice and racism are still prevalent. I’m disgusted that this is still happening; the 1992 Rodney King riots occurred while I was in college, under similar circumstances – and this is still happening?

Watching these protests, and feeling heartbroken that this is today’s news and not decades old, had me feel the need to write to my community and just say this:


What you say matters. And, if you don’t say anything, that matters too.

Look. While I have really strong feelings about what’s happening now, I’m called to just use this as a reminder to tell you to speak up.

I didn’t name one of my online trainings Claim Your Voice because I thought it was catchy. This is one of my deepest beliefs: we will create change in the world once we choose to step up and say what we need to say.

If you’re not speaking up about what you care about… well, let’s refer back to what pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the rise of Nazism, as quoted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

This is not to imply that people of color can’t speak up for themselves. They have powerful voices. But those of us who benefit from white privilege also have a duty to 1) really get what this is about, and then 2) speak about it. Here’s my favorite quote on the topic I’ve seen so far: “White privilege is me being outraged and angered by the Ferguson decision rather than utterly terrified.”

Do it. Choose to speak up about what’s important… to you, and to the world. 

You can make a difference. For example:

Write and give a speech.

Write a blog.

Create a YouTube video.

Whatever works.

What do you need to speak about? What have you been holding back saying? Why? What are you afraid of? It’s okay if people don’t like you. Really. They may not anyway.

But we have to speak.

You can disagree with me if you want. It’s an explosive issue. It should be. But I really want to know what you deeply want and need to speak about.

Leave your comments below.


Sometimes we have strong feelings about something – but we’re in a situation where it’s tricky to share. Perhaps it’s at work, or with family, and you don’t want to rock the boat or are worried about keeping your job. Unfortunately, this means that you can end up taking care of other people at the expense of yourself. Here’s a guide of what to do:

  1. Speak from your own perspective. You don’t know universal truths. If with a boss or colleagues, you can use phrases such as, “In the past months I’ve noticed…” or “This is a situation where we could improve some things, if it’s okay to give some input?” And with family or friends, “I feel” statements – rather than “You did this…” are essential.
  2. Be a little vulnerable. It helps to let others see our humanity and our soft side – especially if we say something that’s hard to hear.
  3. Frame it in terms of desiring to see something change for the positive. Always seek a solution, rather than being stuck in the problem. Express your desire for change.
  4. Ask for what you want. If you need something in particular, don’t expect the other person to somehow know.

This is truly just a start – but an invaluable one. If any of the above are steps you’ve skipped, try to add ’em in to your process.

We have so many wonderful modes of communication these days. Let me rephrase the first part: we have so many wonderful means of avoiding direct confrontation. Need to make plans or perhaps superficial talk? Texting or instant messaging is dandy. But for something that’s sticky, in person is the best way to talk about it.

Why? Because of nonverbal communication – which makes up fifty to eighty percent of communication. Tone of voice, body language, etc., simply cannot be replaced by a smiley face emoticon. Which means that when you are not in person, growing in succession from video (Skype) to phone to email to IMing and texting – you have an increasingly larger chance of being misunderstood.

Yes, it’s oh-so-easy to avoid direct hurt feelings by doing so, but also leads to drawn-out conflict. So. Do it in person, and make sure there’s enough time to really talk.

In part 3: Guidelines for what – and what not to say.

You’re at work or with a loved one, and something rubs you the wrong way. Maybe it’s a pattern that’s been going on for a while, or you suddenly get triggered. It’s easy to think that someone else did something wrong – but they didn’t. Your feelings are yours – which means you need to take responsibility for them. Don’t expect someone else to know what’s going on if you don’t tell them.

So, when should you express it? Most of the time, right away. If you let things fester, they’ll most likely know something’s up, and it just makes things worse. The one exception? If the other person is simply not in a good space to hear, or if you can’t have their full attention, it’s best to wait – but look for an opportunity that works as soon as possible.

In part 2: Where to speak up. Hint: don’t do it via text.

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