It was such a thrill to be invited to speak at the IFVP conference.
I’ve been a student of language and “ontology” (said simply, the study of our way of being) for most of my life. I’ve learned that our linguistic choices reveal much about our mindsets, biases, expectations, and desires. Language is the primary instrument we have to influence, inspire, create openings, challenge and encourage. All things I am deeply committed to doing with my life.
The image of planting a flag and claiming territory came effortlessly to me as I prepared my presentation, with absolutely no awareness of how it might endorse “colonialism”. How using that metaphor casually would gloss-over the painful reality of territory taken by force and violence. This is a serious blind spot…seeing it has highlighted an entire world of language and intent that I had not previously been able to access. This is the power your community.
If you heard me speak, you know I have four daughters (ages 34 to 18) and each of them in their gentle (and not always so gentle) way help me to see how my outmoded ideas about gender, culture, music, and power (to name a few) limit all of us and how my speaking can do harm to others. They call me to account for the power of my speaking, not just to inspire and encourage, but also to perpetuate forms of exclusion.
From the beginning, my intention in our coaching session was to contribute a few “gems” I’d picked up along the way and to encourage all of you to harvest the gems you’d collected during the conference. It didn't occur to me that I would also learn so much about my own blind spots.
Then Sunny forwarded Gray’s article to me.
I deeply appreciate his insights, and they will change the way I facilitate and lead. This is a gift from your community and aligned intention…this is influence on a global scale…Thank you.
The message of the article could so easily have criticized me (as a speaker/leader) while pointing out what I did "wrong". How “people like me” need to change. It could have divided us into “us” and “them”. But he didn’t do that at all. Somehow, as a subject of the article I was left feeling seen and appreciated for my work as a colleague and learner with him, while being challenged to do better. To ask myself to think more broadly, to be aware of how my perspective could do harm to others (even if inadvertently) and undermine my commitment to collectively lifting each other up.
The message I take away from the whole experience is this:
Choose kindness, pay attention and notice more. Raise the bar collectively on the way we use this awesome instrument of language.
If we choose to pay close attention, the words we use can be seeds we plant in the fertile ground of the present for change and learning in the future.