Speaking Up When Conversations Go Wrong
"You can only watch injustice go on for so long until you're compelled to say something. To speak out against it." Macklemore
"Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9
How many times have you been in a group when the direction of the conversation went to places that made you uncomfortable? Suggestive jokes; office gossip; racial remarks; inappropriate comments about a supervisor; complaints about a spouse? It happens all the time, and our perceived sense of discomfort should trigger that we need to show up and speak up. It is entirely possible that others are also uncomfortable as well and they too may not speak up by either participating in the conversation or wading through the pain in awkward silence. It takes some courage to stand in these moments and here are two options for handling these moments.
Two Tactics For Speaking Up
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Tactic One | Speak Up Without Being Morally Self-Righteousness
Speaking up is not about being the kind of person that others perceive to be morally self-righteous and therefore unpleasant to be around. The goal is to both speak up and maintain the relationship and not become known as the "moral police." Our intent is not to alienate others - in some situations, we might need to just bring them along. Just remember there is a huge difference between speaking up by saying, "I wish you wouldn't talk that way about your spouse," versus "When I face that in our marriage we try to handle it this way --." The first approach can be perceived as a self-righteous critique, while the second gives attention to the issue with a productive solution and concern for the relationship. In this way, speaking up can be as simple as shifting the conversation and guiding it toward a more productive tone. Remember conversations go where we lead them. A simple technique is to drive the conversation toward a more positive conclusion. This does not directly condemn others but gives the person, or the group, an alternative discourse. And usually, they'll pick up on your inferred disagreement with their dialogue.
Tactic Two | Speaking Up With Intent To Respectfully Confront
Not all the time, but on occasion, you will have to be stronger in message and tone. Let's take ethnic or sexist comments that are still common in today's workplace. These are deeply offensive to people and God who made people in his image. And, comments like this are destructive to our workplaces and relationships. Comments like, "I respectfully disagree with you," are a quick way to call out the offender and question their remarks, sarcasm, or joking. Or you might try a comment that personalizes the statement like, "I'm hurt by what you said." While this might indeed cause embarrassment, it will hopefully shut down the discussion and future ones as well. In either case, we are simply stating our position with the same audacity that others have stated theirs.
How we say what we say is important but being willing to stand up and show up by speaking up is part of representing our profession in Christ. Conversations that demean or disparage people or groups or that celebrate immorality are never pleasing to God. If you hear something then say something.
Vince Miller is a speaker, author, and mentor to men. He is an authentic and transparent leader who loves to communicate to audiences on the topics of mentorship, fathering, leadership and manhood. He has authored 13 books and small group curriculum for men and is the primary content creator of all Resolute materials. Contact Vince Miller here. His newest book is Thirty Virtues That Build A Man.