Speaking your Truth to Power
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I believe everyone can agree that, generally, if a person crosses someone’s boundary, it would be great if the offended person spoke up. It would be great if everyone abstained from coping with any life issue using passive or passive-aggressive behavior.

Yet, we do need to acknowledge the difficulty of calling someone out where a power imbalance exist. Dealing with power is more art than science. It can be quite challenging to speak truth where candor is not valued in organizational relationships.

If you asked an HR professional for their honest opinion, they would probably say that many of the issues they deal with could have been avoided if the parties involved had simply had a conversation about the issue first.

Easier said than done many would say. No.

It does take courage and skill to speak your truth to power. However the key is connecting the issue to values.

We often try to change others or set boundaries based on our values (what’s important to me). Yet, we need to acknowledge that people don’t willingly change unless something they value is at stake.

If by offending someone I put something of value to me at risk, I will be more willing to change to protect what’s valuable to me. Everyone, no matter how altruistic, is motivated at some level by self-interest or the desire to survive.

It can be challenging to view the issue from another person’s perspective. If you draw a blank when you wonder “what value is at risk for them,” it probably means you don’t know them.

Here are four tips for developing the skill of speaking your truth to power:

  • Remind yourself that your goal is to “build a deeper connection with the other person”;
  • Be in tune with the value(s) of the other person in the specific context and frame the issue from their perspective (what they value);
  • Start the conversation by focusing on the value at risk and avoid beginning with your interpretation;
  • Be open to changing your perception (interpretation), by inviting them to communicate their perspective.

Assertiveness takes practice. It is a firm pathway for speaking truth to power.

Contact us at 1.866.377.0165 to book a mini-course on “Speaking Truth to Power” or to gain access to a 15 minute video that you can use to lead a team discussion.

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