Warning! Outspoken Woman Ahead

So I went and did it. I spent $30 to have a banner made, which I hung between two trees at the front of our property, on a main road, for all the world to see. Have you ever felt so strongly about something that you were willing to make a fool of yourself?

Confident Woman, Confident Leader

Yes, I could have been the person who kept my mouth shut. After all, much of my work comes from organizations that prefer people avoid picking sides in public.

But, it’s a risk I was willing to take.

Colorado Care Amendment 69

Some things are THAT important. (Colorado folks, read about A69 here. And yup, poor choice picking that number.)

FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU SPEAK UP

There are lots of pros and cons when deciding whether to speak up or play it safe. I believe I’ve pondered them all, including the following:

1. There is a time and place for everything. You’ve probably heard the saying, “There’s nothing worse than a reformed (fill in the blank.)” And I’m sure you’ve known people who are so enthusiastic about their latest cause, lifestyle or product that you hide when you see ‘em comin’. So think carefully about when, where and under what circumstances you’ll get the best reception for your message.

2. You may lose friends. It’s sad when people who have known you forever will break off a friendship over one issue, but it does happen. (Have you discussed politics on Facebook lately?) Relationships we have spent years or decades building should not be put at risk because of a difference of opinion. Nobody can agree 100 percent of the time and it takes two to tango, so try to be the person who maintains the friendship. You can have both.

3. People are fragile. They may have experienced trauma, so they feel vulnerable and fearful. They can only take so much controversy or upset in their lives at this point. This is especially true for folks who struggle with depression and anxiety. They are the best judge of how much they can handle. Respect their wishes, no matter how important your issue might seem.

4. Show them they’re not alone. It’s amazing what happens when you freely admit you’ve struggled with something – a health issue, a moral quandary, significant loss, doubts or indecision, etc. People who have experienced something similar will be SO relieved they’re not the only ones! You may give them courage by sharing your story. They will be thankful someone finally said what they’ve been thinking (or experiencing) all along.

5. Pick your battles. (You’ve heard this before.) We don’t have to weigh in on every issue. Figure out what’s worth “going to the mat” for and let someone else take the lead on other issues.

6. Become informed. There are so many GOOD sources for information available these days. Don’t allow yourself to be influenced by spin doctors, and I think you know who they are. Dig deeper. Listen to folks you respect, who have a head on their shoulders. Too many people buy into the drama and disregard the backstory. Look at the bigger picture. Remember that history does tend to repeat itself.

7. Give them time. People who are naturally more skeptical or cautious may need time to digest your information. They are good poker players and won’t divulge their opinion right away, while others will light up immediately like a neon sign. Be satisfied you’ve planted a seed.

8. Be transparent – it’s refreshing. Jerri Marr, forest supervisor and face of Colorado’s 2012 Waldo Canyon Wildfire communication efforts said, “The words ‘I don’t know’ will set you free” as she spoke about leading through crisis. People are hungering for someone to be straight with them – who will tell them the truth without a hidden agenda. They may not agree with you, but they sure will respect you.

In summary: I believe that when we step forward and speak up, we hope it will count for something. Someone’s life will be better off. A problem will be solved. But if not, at least you build skills that may be useful in the future. And ya never know, you may inspire someone to become more of a leader than they’d ever imagined, just because they saw you in action!