You’re sitting in class, and the teacher at the front has just said something that doesn’t entirely make sense to you. “You see, the world is flat. It’s always been flat. And it always will be flat. Flat, flat, flat.”
The year is 1400 A.D., and you’re thinking, “But, what if it isn’t flat? What if it’s round?”
Do you stick your hand up and tell the teacher? Is it worth being burned by the Inquisition just so you can speak your mind?
You probably have a few ideas that defy the mainstream.
It’s hard to be in business for any length of time and not develop your own opinions, insights, and ideas. And some of them may be…. controversial. Talking about them may get some people’s wigs in a knot, and garner you your fair share of push back and abuse.
My client was ostracized.
She was in an online discussion, and a topic came up that she had a strong opinion about, which she shared. And then the next ten commenters promptly disagreed with her.
Some dismissed her opinion as “irrelevant.” Others accused her of being “afraid” or “timid.” Not one person who responded took her response seriously.
I don’t know about you, but when that happens to me, my knee-jerk response is to crawl back under the covers into a fetal position, and cry myself to sleep.
If you do that, you abandon your newest raving fans.
See, in every conversation, there are the talkers, and the listeners. Since you are the one representing your business, I hope that you step into the ‘talker’ position as often and sincerely as you can, in any conversation that touches on what you do. Whether it’s an online forum, the comments section of a blog, a networking event, or a Saturday night bash, you might find yourself engaged in a conversation that touches on your area of expertise.
The status quo can seem to hold a lot of power. And, stepping into the spotlight by speaking a controversial point of view may get you into an argument, or, worse, politely ignored or brushed off.
But, you have a secret weapon.
The Truth echoes loudly.
Remember those listeners, the ones that are eavesdropping on the conversation, but aren’t speaking? Other talkers may have run you over, but your insight or opinion is still hitting a chord of truth in the ears of those listeners.
You see, they already believe, or want to believe, what you’ve spoken. But, they don’t want to get run over. When you speak up, you are a candidate for the open office of ‘champion’ in their minds.
If you back down, or disappear, you lose, and so do they. If you stand up for what you believe, even if you convince none of the other talkers, you still win with the people who really count- the listeners who need a champion.
An example: Poverty Consciousness.
A while ago I wrote an article declaring that a healthy poverty consciousness is more effective than abundance thinking. I got my share of pushback from people, some of whom were fans of the movie The Secret, others who thought I was collapsed and letting people down.
On the other hand, I heard from hordes of people who were frustrated and fed up with their own experience of ‘abundance thinking’ and for whom the powerful humility available in my description of ‘healthy poverty consciousness’ rang true.
It’s also happened on various discussion forums I’ve participated in, where I’ve gotten pushed at pretty vigorously in the public forum, and yet receive private emails and messages from people who were grateful… and who went on to become customers and clients. (Thank you! You know who you are…)
Truth is more powerful than playing it safe.
It’s not much fun to wade into a bar-room brawl, throwing chairs and breaking bottles (although I’ve always wanted to try it out with those break-away chairs and sugar bottles they use on Western movie sets).
But, hiding out, biting your lip not saying anything at all, means that you are abandoning people who want to hear your version of things. This leaves them drowning in a flood of ‘business as usual.’
Of course, you don’t want to be rude or insulting to others. How do you handle controversy in a way that helps people, and no one ends up getting -too- bruised up?
Keys to Truth in Controversy
* Make the controversy clear.
What is an opinion, insight, or thought you’ve had in your business that goes against the status quo? Once you’ve identified it, work it through.
Is it a knee-jerk reaction, or something that feels really true to you? If it feels true, take time to get clear on your position, beyond ‘it just feels right.’ Find examples and case studies of how it’s worked. Sniff out the principles of why it’s true.
* Don’t minimize what you’re saying.
It’s easy to minimize your insight just to be ‘nice’ and avoid conflict. Don’t do it. Don’t be afraid to speak strongly. “Well, I don’t agree with what you say. I’ve found that many people I’ve worked with struggle with abundance thinking without ever seeing results, and yet poverty consciousness really rings true for them, and they have no trouble following through and seeing results.”
If you are conflict-adverse, simply speaking your own perspective can sound impossible. The key is to talk about yourself. Saying “I don’t agree” is very different than saying “You are wrong.” No need to talk about them. Talk about yourself and you can sound strong, without attacking anyone.
* Remember who you’re speaking to.
Remember: you’re really speaking to the listeners, and not to the people who disagree with you. The controversy with the ones who disagree is bringing some light to a Truth that needs to be seen- but you are not arguing with or otherwise trying to win or convince the people who are dead-set against what you’re saying.
You are speaking for those who are silent. Who are stuck. Who need to hear a different perspective so they can find some freedom and movement.
It’s not uncommon for these kinds of encounters to release a lot of adrenalin. You might find yourself shakey, scared, wanting to hide during or afterwards. Be gentle with yourself. Make space for your fear and your shaking. There is nothing wrong with you.
The world isn’t flat, and never was. Keep your commitment to finding the truth in the forefront, and keep your eyes on those silent listeners, who are wanting your support in learning a different way around the world.