To Find Your Voice ... Speak Up

Whether we are building our own businesses or not, I observe that we each have a unique voice to bring to the world — a perspective to contribute. I also see and experience that we often struggle to clearly express that perspective and to find that voice. We choose not to share, because we can't seem to say it as well as we'd like. We resist speaking up for fear of embarrassment or being misunderstood and rejected. Admittedly, there are times when it is best to be quiet. And yet, when we cave in to our resistance to speaking up, we're missing the opportunity to figure out the point, to find our voice and to make a difference ... because the only way to actually do all of this ... is to speak up. 

At its core, the co-conspiring work my clients and I do together is about finding and expressing their voices. Of course, I'm working to find and express mine, too!  And to be honest, every time I hit "publish" on one of these blog posts, I cringe. And I know, the more we allow ourselves the chance to express, the more clear and impactful our messages become. 

Last week I intended to write another post and didn't. Instead, I found myself driven to write a letter to one of my Senators (The Honorable Ron Wyden), in response to an email survey he sent out. Then, I felt pulled to make a story suggestion/request to the Washington Post. Really? In both cases, diminished me said, "Who do you think you are?" and "You don't really know what you're talking about." I chose to write them anyway. With each one, I almost abandoned ship and chose not to send them, after taking precious time to write them (as I've done multiple times in the past). And in both cases, I sent them off with the following pep talk:  "What the heck. I have nothing to lose. I'm challenging myself to think and learn and grow. And, maybe it will make a small difference."   

I was inspired to write these letters by an article (written by Kathryn Schulz) in the March 6, 2017, issue of the New Yorker : "What Calling Congress Achieves: It's said to be the most effective way to petition the government, but does it really make a difference."  For me, the historical context made the current information particularly interesting. Bottom line: Yes, calling matters, and a personally expressed letter still has the most impact. 

Although I feel very vulnerable sharing, below are the two letters I wrote (unedited, although I was pretty tempted to make a few changes!). Perhaps they will inspire you to give yourself the chance speak up in your life and your business, too.  Even when it's not perfect, the act of writing and sharing is what is most important.  And I genuinely believe, one way or another, caring enough to do so makes a difference.  

Letter #1: 

March 8, 2017

Dear Senator Wyden~

I just took your survey and am following up to say that I chose "Stand up to right wing republicans" as my choice, 1) because it's impossible to choose just one of the issues on that list as most important (sorry, I know that's not helpful), and 2) because I know you know that standing up to right wing republicans means more than just saying no (as you demonstrated to all of us at your Oregon City Town Hall a few weeks ago, which I attended). 

I'm deeply concerned by the overall (in my opinion) dismissive/self-serving/arrogant approach of right wing republicans, and I'm tired of witnessing people getting caught in useless fights that sometimes seem to go no deeper than the "names of things"  ... e.g. for or against Obamacare, or the EPA or the Department of Education, etc.  I want for "us" (the corporate "we" of democrats and independents and rational republicans like McCain and Graham) to communicate about specifics related to these topics that are relevant to all citizens and to define solutions in ways that "most citizens" would naturally get behind, whether republican or democrat, because they address and solve relevant needs. I would like to see legislation crafted and shared with citizens in ways that party affiliation becomes irrelevant ... and empowers "citizens" to get fired up and united behind specifics, not just "titles."  

Aren't we seeing this with the "Obamacare" fight today? People don't want to lose their "specific" coverage.  Honestly, I don't care if the healthcare solution ends up being a refinement or a replacement of the ACA, IF the "alternative" successfully addresses the real healthcare needs of our citizens and is RESPECTFUL and INCLUSIVE and JUST for ALL.  The same is true for education, the environment, immigration, etc.  I'm sick of a President who needs to create "losers" so that he can get his "winner fix."  I'd like for "us" to be able to ignore his ridiculous outbursts and attempted distractions away from him, and stay focused on 1) continuing to demand release of his tax returns and an independent investigation into his administration's relationship with Russia (as well as inquiries into his psychological fitness, per concerns expressed by a growing community of psychiatrists, per "Psychology Today"), and 2) most importantly, connecting and finding the "middle way" between the extremes and proposing and "promoting" legislation that bridges the divide and rallies "citizens" at a grass roots level to stand up and speak up "for" a specific new possibility, rather than just against whatever one party or the other is proposing. 

The work I do (and developed) helps people to understand what the point of their lives is ... and how to "live" this point throughout their personal and professional actions.  The point of bringing this up is that, Christians tell me my work is right out of the bible, Buddhists tell me my work is right out of their readings ... and so do yogis, etc.  The point is that I (rather accidentally) found a common language that speaks to "being human" and helps people, regardless of their religion or any other personal identifier.   It seems to me that #45 spoke plainly to real/everyday concerns and (unbelievably) won this election.  And it seems to me that Bernie Sanders gained such a powerful/committed following doing the same thing.  Why can't we find a voice/platform with specific solutions that ignites the vast middle?   If I could help explore how, I would volunteer in a heartbeat! 

This is a loose and rather hurried bit of communication ... and I'm choosing to hit send anyway, with all due respect.  If responding is of value to you, I would welcome a response.  If not, I completely support you in spending your precious time focused on what IS most important!  

Thanks for communicating with your constituents and asking us what's important.  And thanks for all you and your staff and volunteers are doing every day to fight for what you believe is right and possible.  I'm very grateful for you all!  

Kimberly Dawson, Portland, Oregon

Letter #2 (via email form to the Washington Post)

March 9, 2017
Subject Category: Journalism
Subject Subcategory: Story Ideas/Article Suggestions

To Whom It May Concern:

I'm a Portland, Oregon, resident who has become a HUGE fan of your publication and app since the election. Thank you for all you're doing to keep us informed, objectively, and in a timely matter, during these chaotic times. 

Something that I think would be incredibly helpful, in addition to your reporting, is to provide informational "graphics" (at least conceptually), that help us more easily "see" and understand the difference and impact of the legislation being proposed these days ... from healthcare reform to termination of the EPA and the Department of Education, etc! 

For example, re: the republicans' newly proposed ACA replacement plan: can a "graphic" (or some other easily understandable form of comparison) be created that shows what ACA currently provides and what the new plan provides, and shows the impact of the difference? I know this isn't easy. AND, I feel we as citizens need to understand these proposals in terms of how they will directly affect us and others, individually. For example, with the ACA replacement plan ... compare coverage/costs of the ACA with the new proposal for people at different ages ... at different income levels ... etc. How can you (the media) give citizens even better "tools" to speak up with informed and powerful voices ... to be able to be specific about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in this legislation ... and to rally "for" something specific rather than just against something "overall" ... which is getting us nowhere. 

With Americans engaging in citizenship in ways most of us never have felt so inspired (or frantic) to do til now, is there not both a need and an opportunity for the media to consider how information needs are expanding/being redefined? I went to a town hall 3 weeks ago and the main question everyone had was how we can get involved, other than by calling our representatives, writing postcards, signing petitions, sending money and marching ... and otherwise "fighting against" what we don't want? How can we get behind what we do want? I think one of the biggest challenges is that we don't know enough to be able to communicate specifics of what we do want or even what else is possible in a coherent and impactful way. I'm hoping respectable media organizations like the Washington Post can helps us. If you know of other sources providing this already, I'd love to know about them! 

Thanks very much for your consideration!
With sincere gratitude for all you do,

Kimberly Dawson, Portland, Oregon

* Note: The Washington Post published a related story 4 days later (Monday, March 13th):  "Affordable Care Act revision would reduce insured numbers by 24 million, CBO projects." It pretty much delivers what I requested in my letter.  I'm sure they were already on it.  Hopefully, if nothing else, my letter felt like support for the way they chose to provide this information. No harm done, either way.