Listen, Learn, and Support – But Don’t Speak!
How to Say More by Saying Less
There have been so many great conversations about inclusion, diversity, and equality happening in the world of late. While these discussions are long overdue and incredibly important, a lot of folks (especially white cis-males) aren’t always sure how to show support in these meetings. To quote the great Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, I suggest you “Don’t Speak.”
While both your presence and support are crucial in these meetings, you don’t have to speak in every conversation. If you find yourself in a discussion centered around an underrepresented group, remember who that discussion is centered around. You may be welcome, but take that time to listen and learn. The culture we’re in makes us feel like we have to weigh in on everything, but we don’t. Exercise self-awareness and learn to read the room… silently.
If you wonder how people will know you support them if you can’t speak, then you’re probably more worried about perception than you are about being supportive. Actions speak louder than words, so if you show up, truly listen, and put what you learned into practice – that’s enough. You shouldn’t be looking for recognition anyway. Privilege exists, so if you’re white, you’ll be seen and heard regardless.
Focus on giving space to others so there’s room for them to speak, and uplift them whenever possible. Find comfortable opportunities to encourage underrepresented folks to speak up, but otherwise – zip it. Respond if someone asks for your thoughts, of course, but if you aren’t asked, let others drive the conversation. People often don’t actively listen because they’re thinking of the next thing to say, but if you don’t speak, you don’t have to worry about what comes next. That gives you more room to soak in the conversation.
Be there. Listen. Be Supportive. Take what you heard and put it into action. Most importantly – don’t speak! Do these things and you’ll be on your way to being a great leader and ally.