Courageous Conversations

You open your mouth to say something, perhaps challenge someone; but instead you gingerly close it shut.

We’ve all had these moments.

There’s a saying that says ‘he who is silent, agrees’.

Worth keeping that in mind for next time.

From snide racist remarks to men being sexist; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat idly by while someone mouths off about something I strongly disagree with.

I didn’t want to make it awkward at the dinner table or even worse – offend them.

The problem is, not only are you going against yourself and creating an internal dialogue that your opinion isn’t worthy; but whomever is doing the spewing will keep on doing it.

We need to be having more courageous conversations. A term a coach of mine, Simon Ekin (author of ‘The art of courage’) has coined for his new workshops. At my first one, I was inspired by the others who shared their stories of being courageous in every day conversation – and even speaking first at a ‘SaveSA’ forum with some of South Africa’s top minds.

I get the feeling that our society is in the grip of their own downward negative spiral and allow external forces, outside of their control, to affect their lives. And yet, when it comes to things they can change, they shy away.

Changing South Africa doesn’t need massive action – if every individual makes small changes, these added up collectively have a massive impact on society.

Simple case in point, I hike with a bag now because there’s rubbish on our mountains. It’s quite easy to fill a bag in forty minutes, especially on the more popular routes like Lions Head. Biggest culprits are smokers, there are hundereds of butts littering the beautiful landscape. Now imagine if each person who carelessly throws their rubbish down simply kept it in their pocket or bag until reaching the dustbin at the bottom? 

We wouldn’t need big co-ordinated clean up efforts.

Question is: surely people see these miscreants littering?

If we don’t speak up they’ll just continue to do it.

We have two great challenges in life:

  1.  To find our own voices
  2. Finding the courage to use them

Having the courage to use your voice doesn’t mean simply arguing for the sake of it or challenging everything people do because you can. It means when someone’s clearly doing you, others or the environment harm – you take a stand.

Courage is speaking to your partner about what’s not working to fix it and avoid divorce; instead of quietly hoping it gets better and get divorced anyway.

Courage is speaking out against a video of an idiot pulling women’s tops down while being filmed under the guise of ‘pranks’; instead of saying nothing at all.

Courage means being honest with friends and family if their behavior is not a positive influence anymore. 

Courage is challenging an antiquated racist mindset and getting to the root of their fears and ending the cycle of projection.

This means opening yourself up to criticism, ridicule and gossip. But you know what? I heard this from JT Foxx and I loved it: If people are talking about you behind your back – it’s because they’re behind you.

We fuel problems by constantly talking about them. If you break that cycle and focus on the positive things around us – how dramatically would this world change?

More importantly: how would your world change?

I attended a finincial education workshop for Non Profit Organsiations hosted by the Sustainable Development Network. What a privilege to be in a room with twenty six individuals who’s work is all about make other people’s lives better.

It was a double edged sword – one side I was inspired by what great work is being done in this country; but on the other dismayed that for the most part, goes unheard. Because “good news” doesn’t sell? Bullshit. 

It’s because you and I are not asking the right questions about our country, our cities, our communities.

It’s shifting though.

I feel it with my friends and the interactions I have at workshops Simon runs (worth getting hold of him to discuss) and nights like PechKucha (Japanese for chit chat) where anyone can share their passions and work they do. Starting courageous conversations. And this is happening in over 900 cities around the world.

We can change the world – you and I – let’s build on all the amazing work already being done.

All it takes is one decision. I hope you make it today


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