You know me: I often stir pots and push envelopes in my community. I can’t help myself. My parents have taught me that if you don’t speak up about injustices, you become complicit. Silence implies consent.
STAYING OUT OF TROUBLE
I know many of you prefer not to engage in debates for various (and very understandable) reasons. You’ve been taught to keep your head down and avoid confrontation.
You may think that if you ask for a higher rate, the client will pick someone else. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you! You may think that if you speak up, people may not like you anymore. You don’t want to be seen as a troublemaker, because troublemakers have a reputation of being difficult to work with.
Let me counter all of that with the following:
If it were not for the good troublemakers in our society, there would be very little positive change, and the powers that be would have free range.
Listen, I’m not comparing myself in any way to Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or John Lewis, but all of them caused some seriously good trouble, didn’t they? Yet, they were ridiculed, insulted, threatened, and even killed for speaking up.
When you take a stand it is normal to expect pushback. In fact, if there isn’t any resistance, you have to speak louder and clearer.
But how exactly should you speak up?
HOW TO STIR THE POT
First off, make sure the issue at stake truly matters to you. Don’t just ruffle some feathers for the fun of it. That’s a childish waste of time. Also make sure it’s not some pet peeve you’re getting all worked up about. Whatever it is you wish to tackle has to be interesting and relevant to lots of others. Otherwise, why would people bother to read your article?
Secondly, even though you’re about to voice your opinion, make sure you get the facts right, so always do your research. People will question your opinion, but make sure they can’t fault you for your facts. Your credibility is paramount.
Third: no matter how upset you are about the issue you’re going to address, never communicate in anger. Social media posts have a long shelf life.
Fourth: have people you trust, read and respond to what you’re going to say before you put it out into the world. You may think your words make perfect sense, but that’s because you are looking at the issue from the inside with insider knowledge. You’re not objective. That makes you vulnerable.
Fifth: make your case in such a way that people with very little background knowledge will still be able to understand what the big deal is, and why they should care. The first time you use a term that to most readers will be jargon, explain what it means in simple terms (without sounding condescending).
EMOTIONS BEAT FACTS
Most people aren’t convinced by logical reasoning, but they will listen if you make an emotional appeal; if you show them how their lives will be affected. You’ve got to make the “what’s in it for me” argument. People will do things for THEIR reasons and not for yours.
You also have to have an “I don’t care” attitude. You obviously care about your causes, but you should not be afraid of being criticized. You have to be unwavering in the face of opposition, and willing to learn from those who try to counter your arguments. They are your best teachers.
In fact, one of the best strategies when writing an article, is to anticipate what the opposition is going to say, and deal with that upfront. Make it part of your story. That way you take the wind out of the sails of your critics before they have launched an attack.
Lastly, always keep in mind that the cause is more important than the person advocating for that cause. It’s never about you. You are simply the messenger. So, don’t take things too personally or take yourself too seriously.
I highly recommend wearing silly socks as a reminder!
PS This story also appeared on my Instagram page where you can find a new micro-blog every day.