They say “time flies when you’re having fun” and given that it is nearly May, I can absolutely agree with this!
I thought that now’s a good time to reflect on my learnings from the fantastic courses and conferences I have been fortunate to attend this year, Fearless Futures and Culture First Forum, show my gratitude to the people who have helped me with advice, Henry Rose Lee, Joanne Lockwood, Esther Stanhope, and be thankful to my colleagues and friends for their support and trust, Outsource UK, Emma Feltham, Nicole Hardiman.
I could go on, but instead, I’m going to share three of the lessons I have learnt with you:
1. Doing the right thing might not always make friends.
It’s ok to disagree. Over the years, I have struggled with this belief because I always wanted everyone to like me, but that fence I have been sitting on is beginning to get quite uncomfortable, and as I become more and more aware of the privileges I hold, the responsibility I carry becomes ever more apparent. I can step away from most uncomfortable situations, but not everyone has that privilege, and if I have the power to change that, it becomes my responsibility. Micro-aggressions exist all around us, but just because they aren’t targeted at us doesn’t mean we should sit back and be silent. ‘Friendly banter’ is subjective, everyone has a limit, and we shouldn’t be pushing our colleagues, friends, and family to that limit. It’s not a test. To be clear, I am not the ‘Inclusion Police’, I am not here to tell you that you can’t speak in case it upsets someone, but what I am here to highlight is that we are all different and ‘friendly banter’ to one person, may be the tipping point to another. So before you crack that joke, pause and reflect on whether it’s really necessary. And if you do still say it, don’t be surprised if I, or anyone else who wants to join me in jumping off that fence, call you out.
2. It’s OK to be vulnerable.
Not one single person knows everything. Of course, I like to think that my parents do, but they, in my world, are superhuman. Nobody expects you to know everything, so get your notepad out and start listening to others. We’ve all got our place, we all have our passion and skills, but the great thing is, they are all different, and we can learn so much from each other. Be prepared to reach out to others for advice, be prepared to listen, and be prepared to learn. If achieving true inclusion were easy, we’d have achieved it by now, but sadly we haven’t, so let’s ban the phrase “we’ve always done it that way”. Let’s stop being afraid of the risks and let’s collaborate. Instead of being the problem, I want to be the solution and if that means accepting my weaknesses and taking a few risks, I’m on board with that.
To quote the great Maya Angelou: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
3. ‘Sorry’ can be a damaging word.
As a person who has always run away from confrontation, my default word was always ‘sorry’. I’m ashamed to admit it now, but for a long time, I thought I was doing the right thing by apologising and walking away. How wrong could I have been? What was the impact of this? Well, for me, my conscience was clear. I’d admitted blame, I’d been the bigger person, I’d closed the issue. But what about the other person? At best, I’d had no impact whatsoever, the word was empty, the word changed nothing. At worst, I’d passed my guilt onto them. I’d made them feel that they had driven me to apologise, I’d put pressure on them because I’d apologised now, so they should accept it and move on.
Wow! When I look back at all of these times I’ve said sorry, I just want to climb into a box labelled ‘shame’ and close the lid. And so I am naming my shame (thanks Brené!):
“I’m sorry for being so rubbish” = pressure on the other person to the take the lead.
“I’m sorry for what I said / didn’t say / did / didn’t do” = pressure on the other person to accept the apology and move on.
“I’m sorry to hear that” = nothing.
We’re all familiar with the expression ‘actions speak louder than words’ well here’s a ground-breaking moment, they actually do! Next time you feel the word ‘sorry’ coming out of your mouth, stop for a minute and think about what you can DO to actually show you are sorry and make things better for the other person. Ask them what you can do to make things easier for them, put a disagreement right, show them you care. Of course, I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever say it, but maybe, occasionally, there’s something out there that’s better than ‘sorry’.
Of course, these are all personal to me. So what have you learnt this year?