Have you ever stayed silent because if you said anything it could hurt your job or status or something similar? It’s like a wall that holds you back, even when you disagree. I’m not talking about being polite. Rather, disagreeing or having a different view point is what could get you into “trouble.” Another part of this is being afraid and not doing something because of that. How many people won’t venture out because it is too cold, too hot, too rainy or snowy, or too far away?
I had a conversation with a friend recently related to that last part. My friend thought that I’m not scared and that’s why I am willing to do things like riding my bike at night. I replied that I might be scared, and I’m not willing to have that as a reason to miss out. I do make sure to take precautions. The anxiety that I feel is a motivating factor to prepare and stay safer or drier or whatever the case may be.
The Hard Part
An organization that I have been involved in for about a year and a half has been a love/hate type of relationship. Early on, I decided that as a volunteer I could take the risk of speaking out and I wanted to make my voice heard. I had some initial support that allowed me to be a part of the steering committee. As I have stated in other posts, I am much better at writing than I am at speaking. I remind myself constantly that my belief in the potential community impact and importance of the organization is why I stick around. To you, that may sound silly. However, I have seen and experienced snippets of that impact and still feel it is worthwhile. Some examples of the challenges of continually speaking out include being a woman around a majority of men, high versus low engagement, and communication misunderstandings.
To be clear, most of the time I can get along with anyone who is willing. The willing part sometimes falls off course. For example, the conversation I have with some of the men comes from the attitude that I am someone to flirt with and it doesn’t matter the age difference or either person’s relationship status. Other than the flirting, there is never a reason to talk to me or take me (or any woman) seriously.
Some men insist on what they refer to as “chivalry,” always giving things up to let the woman make a first choice. I believe in taking turns. Or, for example, if you are going to hold the door open, do it because I am the next person behind you, not because I am a woman. Chivalry might be ok for a date or in certain other circumstances. As a rule, it stinks because it is as if women need the advantage of going first or cannot open the doors themselves.
Then there are the men who either joke all the time or are a$$holes. In these cases, it is challenging to have a serious conversation when that is the intent. Jokes are a way to be distracting and blow things off. The flip side, sometimes from the same people, is the a$$hole side of giving everyone a hard time to get through a conversation just to give someone a hard time. That is the only point – to tease or give a hard time. I am ok with this attitude if there is an actual point to it and the delivery is in a way to bring attention. Usually, though, it is joking, a hard time, or sometimes being completely ignored or hijacked. An example of hijacking is when I am directly asked a question from one person and a second person answers without acknowledging that the first had been asked. Sometimes this is the most challenging because it is like being invisible. Plus, it would take someone who is seen (not invisible) as an authority to make the point and potentially get behavior to change. I have spoken up about a couple of these. Apologies or not, the behaviors return.
High or Low Engagement
My philosophy is to be involved as much as possible when it is something I am passionate about or trying to learn. I admit I have a hard time when others do not put in the same efforts. Equally, sometimes my involvement is invisible as far as an output other than my physical presence. Overall, especially a year ago as a student, I have felt spread too thin and have had to make choices.
This particular organization is still in a startup stage with a lot of setups being created. In other words, even if I solely focused on tasks for the one organization (which I cannot do because I need to keep my paying job), the tasks would range. Some of the work has been openly divided up. The problem is that where I consider the work similar to a paid job, not everyone does. As a volunteer, it is a choice of how much to do. If it is considered a job, that means if I am expected and cannot make it, I let someone in charge know. If I promised to do something, I work on doing it. If I have a question, then I also expect at least a direction if not a final answer. I do speak up since I am around. Still to be determined if my efforts are appreciated. See previous section for reasoning.
Do you remember the Universal Translator that tends to be available as needed in Star Trek episodes? In this case, the foreign language is still English. The interpretation differences probably have to do with backgrounds and how the communications have been previously interpreted. When interpretations have occurred that made it seem like I am “this” type of person and in reality I am completely different, it puzzled (and puzzles) me. This happened with my ex-husband, too, someone who was supposed to know me. It is much clearer when it happens now because I usually know what the interpretation is and sometimes there is an actual discussion and the “Universal Translator” has worked. I tend to forget about some of the other interpretations until the situation repeats. People have been mad at me before because of those differences in interpretations, which is not a friendly environment. When I can get a discussion in, I do.
The whole point here is to be able to respectfully speak out and take the risk even when afraid. If nothing else, I am learning how to deal with the situations and getting practice at being better at speaking out. In a more established or formal organization, I probably would have been fired several times by now. The question is, if we cannot speak out and everything stays as is, what is the point? The challenges and changes are what makes us grow and mature. Are you satisfied with the current state of life in the world you engage in or will you walk the line (respectfully) for something more?
Thanks for reading!
If you happen to be directly connected to me and are reading this through a Facebook post, what is your normal response? Do you “like” or comment on the post, either on Facebook or WordPress? Since my intention is to engage with people on what I write about, I really want to know. Facebook and the other platforms you might find my posts on ARE social media, which, to me, implies a two-way communication. What I find instead, whether for blogs or general posts (and slightly exaggerated), are the creepers, the stalkers and the wishy-washy.
Creepers, as the name implies, tend not to acknowledge any posts. The only reason I can tell that it happens is because every once in a while there will be a reference to something and it usually has to do with what was posted on Facebook. On top of that, the post would have been the single reason the person would have known. Sometimes, this is ok, especially if it was about an event or what is meant to be public. The other side is that if there are opinions, judgments or thoughts that would normally be a verbal discussion, then at least send a message if you don’t want to show the public you are acknowledging the post. Does this sound reasonable? If not, I am curious to know why. I have seen posts on Facebook and messaged the person to start a conversation on the topic and it has worked well.
Stalkers are the opposite of creepers. Stalkers tend to “like” (most) everything they see, whether or not they comment. The part that I find irritating is that someone will take the time to “stalk” my profile in order to keep up with what is in my life, and, again, will NOT take the time to comment or to message me directly and engage. The people I mean in this example are the friends who live nearby or are part of a closer circle of friends. Facebook might have a virtual “wall.” It is still a wall that can be a barrier. My solution in this case is to post less. The major events (personal or part of community activities) will still be out there because that is a way to promote them. For more personal happenings and thoughts, you’ll have to ask me in a direct communication. The other part to that is don’t expect me to give you information when you’re not sharing back. If we aren’t close friends, then anything I contribute as you scroll through your news feeds is probably fine with this solution.
Wishy-washy is the third group, and the most apparent. For the last two years I have hosted a variety of events between a few different organizations. When the event is created or linked on Facebook, many of the responses are “maybe.” Truly, there probably are a variety of reasons that the “maybe” choice is used. I have done it myself to have a reminder. When it comes down to a bottom line, though, using “maybe” is mostly a polite way of saying “no.” If you believe that something better is going to come along or you can go “if…,” then the priority on the event with “maybe” is pretty low. I’d rather have the honest response. Wouldn’t you want honesty, too?
I not only have a consistent amount of the same “maybe” responders on events, most of the people have never shown up, ever. I have even messaged and asked them what would change the answer to “yes.” Trying to accommodate, if possible, hasn’t worked, either. A couple of times recently I created events around a particular person. The first event the person at the last minute “had to work.” I’d believe that 100% except that this person has also been one of the regulars with a “maybe” response.
The second example was an event that had to be coordinated with more people. Still, I set it up based on the requester’s availability. This person ended up scheduling other events that overlapped, did show up late, and then was sorry to have been late cause it was fun. The promise was to be there the entire time for the next “yes.” I’m going to believe that, while I also wonder how many others create these conflicts.
What is the most ironic is that even “yes” doesn’t always mean much. A person responded recently with “yes” to an event and then shortly after invited me to an event that is the same date and time. What is the deal with that? At the moment, I do not have a solution to this group. More, I have a question for everyone, especially now that you have made it to the bottom (yay!) of this post: “Why is it hard to engage with friends and community events?”
By the way, if you communicate well and don’t fit any of this, thank you!
Thanks for reading!